The Mental Health Act 1983
and guardianship
The Mental Health Act (MHA) is designed to protect the rights of people
in England and Wales who are assessed as having a ‘mental disorder’.
This is a general term used in the act to describe any disorder or disability
of the mind, including dementia. The act does not apply in Northern
Ireland, where the equivalent legislation is based on the Mental Health
(Northern Ireland) Order 1986.
This factsheet looks at the parts of the Mental Health Act that cover the process
of ‘being sectioned’, challenging a section, guardianship and after-care services.
The person with dementia and their nearest relative must be informed of their
rights and what is happening in relation to the Mental Health Act.

The sections of the Mental Health Act
The MHA consists of over 100 parts, called sections. The following
sections are the most relevant to people with dementia and
their carers:
Section 2 – Detention for assessment in hospital
If health professionals think that a person with dementia is
behaving in a way that places their health at risk or is a danger to
themselves or others, they can be detained in hospital under section 2
of the act so that they can be assessed. This process is often known as
‘being sectioned’.


A person can initially be detained in hospital for assessment for a
maximum of 28 days.
An approved mental health professional (AMHP) and the person’s
nearest relative both have the legal power to have someone
admitted to hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act (see
‘The key roles’ section for an explanation of these roles). However, it is
very unusual for a nearest relative to do this. Every local authority has
a duty to provide a trained team of AMHPs specifically to carry out
this role.
Two doctors must then agree to the section and sign medical
recommendations stating why someone can only be treated in
a psychiatric hospital. One of these doctors must...