Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ask the AMHP – a new occasional column

Ask The Masked AMHP for the answers to your thorny MHA related problems. He might know the answer. Or not.

Here’s a question I recently received from a rather stressed and anxious AMHP (but then they all are, aren’t they?)

I’ve got 2 medical recommendations for Sec.3 on a patient who is in the medical assessment unit of our local hospital, but lives outside our area. The other area is currently trying to find a bed. Can I complete this application?

The Masked AMHP replies:

No, I’m afraid you can’t. You have to have the name and address of a hospital prepared to take the patient on your application form before you can sign it and therefore complete the application. But it’s even worse – your two doctors can’t make a recommendation for Sec.3 unless they can state the name of a hospital where appropriate treatment can be provided. And if they start giving a very long list of possible hospitals, in the hope that one of them might become available for the patient, that sort of defeats the object of suitable treatment being available.

The only thing I can suggest is that your two doctors make a recommendation for Sec.2. then they won’t have to name a hospital, and they can then leave. Since your patient is actually currently an inpatient on a general ward, you could see if you can detain the patient on that ward under Sec.2. You can then complete your application and the patient will be formally detained. The patient can then be transferred under the usual transfer arrangements once the other area has found a bed.

Here’s a question I had emailed to me by a student AMHP.

I am a student AMHP and a recent dilemma in the office has prompted me to write to you. If a person is on a CTO and the conditions of this are that they receive treatment in supported living should the living cost ie rent be paid through S117, local policy says not but I wanted to check.

Also, the local policy says that the person does not legally have to accept the S117 aftercare, however how does this fit in with aftercare that is a requirement of the CTO?

The Masked AMHP replies:

There is quite a bit of case law about S117 and housing costs, which I have covered on my blog. Normal living expenses, eg food, electricity, housing, are universal needs and are not arising from a mental health need. Therefore they are not covered by S117.

If the S117 aftercare is explicitly covered by the conditions of the CTO, eg that the patient resides in a certain place, then a failure to do so breaches his CTO. In such a situation, the patient would have to accept S117 aftercare.

Here’s a question from the blog:

Have you ever known a situation where one doctor disagrees and will not furnish a recommendation so a third doctor is sought in order to detain?

The Masked AMHP replies:

I have certainly had situations where one doctor has furnished a recommendation, but a second Sec.12 doctor has disagreed and refused. This is not uncommon for someone who is an inpatient, and the hospital Responsible Clinician has left a medical recommendation on the ward. I have to say that in these situations, I have been satisfied to go along with this and not therefore proceed with an application. However, theoretically, if as an AMHP you feel the dissenting doctor is acting perversely, and you are very concerned about risks to the patient if they are not detained, I do not regard it an unethical of obtain a further medical opinion. However, there’d have to be a limit to the number of doctors you could consult.

And here’s a final question from another stressed and anxious AMHP:

I’ve got a 16 year old girl on a Sec.2 in a private hospital. We do not feel she needs to be in hospital, and we have arranged for an alternative placement. The Community Responsible Clinician backs this plan. However, the hospital Responsible Clinician refuses to discharge her from hospital, and will not discharge the Sec.2. What can we do?

The Masked AMHP replies:

Crumbs! What a peculiar situation. The hospital RC has the final say in this, regardless of what the community RC thinks, and even if the community RC provided one of the recommendations. The patient can appeal against the decision, and as it’s a Sec.2 the Tribunal would generally be within 3 working days. In the meantime, you as the AMHP could make it clear that you would be recommending discharge, which might concentrate the mind of the hospital RC.

Keep your questions coming in! The Masked AMHP is always happy to try to assist.


  1. humm on the first question surely if the doctors have assessed for a 3 they can not then change their mind and go for a 2 and can't really understand why they didn't name the hospital where the patient is, as it would appear the transfer to another hospital id because of distance rather than spcialisit treatment of some kind

    1. The doctors don't know the patient because the patient is from another area. Even if the patient is well known elsewhere,since the doctors and the AMHP are not familiar with them, and what treatment may or may not be available in their home area, I would submit that it would be wiser to go for a Sec.2 in any case. The patient was on a medical ward in a general hospital, so psychiatric treatment could not necessarily be offered there, so could not justify a Sec.3 admission to that ward. No psychiatric RC for one thing. Sec.2 to the medical ward, then transfer to an appropriate hospital in the patient's area when one was found, would be both expedient and justifiable.

  2. On the final question, it is a strange scenario indeed, but very interesting that it is a dispute between a private hospital and the (NHS) service.
    So if the patient is currently in a private hospital, assuming that she is an NHS patient, cannot the service transfer her out into an NHS facility for the purpose of discharge? If it is an 'ECR' bed, then the patient can be brought back into an NHS bed at any time.
    Having said that, I guess as a 16 year old there will be no NHS adolescent beds and the patient may well be hospitalised 100+ miles from her home and her catchment hospital.