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Chapter 4 Section B: Initial detention and transport under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)

There are various ways you can be taken to a public mental health facility or emergency department for further assessment under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW). This may happen against your will.

This section explains the different ways a person can be admitted to hospital as an involuntary patient:

  • on certification from a doctor
  • on request from a relative
  • by the police
  • by an ambulance officer
  • by order of the Local Court
  • on a magistrate’s order
  • on transfer from another health facility

After you are taken to hospital, there is an assessment process before you can be held as an involuntary patient. For more about this, click here

4B.1: Involuntary admission on certification from a doctor or accredited person

The most common way of being admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) is on the basis of a medical certificate or ‘Schedule 1’, written by your general practitioner or a doctor at a hospital (often an emergency department) who has seen you and thinks you need to be in public mental health facility. This is where the term ‘scheduled’ comes from.

The Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) allows the NSW Government to appoint ‘accredited persons’ who are not doctors who can schedule you. These accredited persons undergo specific training before they can be appointed. They are usually staff members of local community mental health teams. They exist so that in rural and remote areas, where there are often no doctors available at short notice, there is a way for a person to be initially detained under the Act in an emergency.

The certificate can only be written if the doctor or accredited person:

  • has observed or examined you soon before completing the certificate;
  • is not a near relative of yours (and is not your Designated Carer);
  • is of the opinion you are a mentally ill person or a mentally disordered person as defined in the Act;
  • is of the opinion that there is a risk of harm to yourself or others and
  • is satisfied that no other appropriate means for dealing with you is reasonably available, and that involuntary admission and detention is necessary.

The certificate also enables a doctor or accredited person to examine or observe your condition by videoconference for the purpose of determining whether to issue a mental health certificate (including a Schedule 1 medical certificate).

If a doctor or accredited person thinks that you should go to hospital, you can agree to get there yourself or with help from friends or relatives. If you cannot organise this, an ambulance may be arranged, or the police may be asked to take you to hospital against your will.

4B.2: Involuntary admission on request from a relative or friend

A Designated Carer, Principal Care Provider, relative or friend can make a written request to the Authorised Medical Officer of a public mental health facility that you be taken to hospital. In regional areas where it may be difficult to get a doctor to come and see you, it is important to know that these people in your life can make such a request.

The Authorised Medical Officer must not detain you on such a request unless he or she is satisfied that, because of the distance required in order for you to be examined and the urgency of the circumstances, it is not reasonably practicable to have you detained based on a mental health certificate.

In regional areas, it often is very difficult to get a doctor to come and see you. If a relative or friend brings you to a public mental health facility, they can then make a written request to the authorised medical officer that you be involuntarily admitted.

 4B.3: Involuntary admission by the police

mentally ill or mentally disordered as defined under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) and they reasonably believe that you:

  • have recently attempted to kill yourself, cause serious physical harm to yourself or it is probable that you will attempt to; or
  • will attempt to kill or cause serious physical harm to another person; or
  • are committing or have recently committed an offence; and
  • that it would be beneficial for your welfare to be dealt with under the Mental Health Act 2007, rather than, for example, under the criminal law.

Police can enter your home without a warrant to do this.

Police can also be ordered by a magistrate to take you to hospital.

4B.4: Involuntary admission by an ambulance officer

If an ambulance officer believes on reasonable grounds that you are mentally ill or mentally disordered as defined under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), and that it would be beneficial for your welfare to be dealt with under that Act, they can take you to a public mental health facility.

The ambulance officer can ask the police for help to do this if they are worried about your safety and the safety of others without police. For example, if you aggressively resist the ambulance’s attempts to take you to hospital, they may call the police.

4B.5: Involuntary admission by order of the Local Court

If you have to go to the Local Court because you have been charged with a criminal offence and the magistrate believes that you could be a mentally ill person as defined under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), the magistrate can order the police to take you to hospital for assessment.

An authorised officer under the Bail Act 2013 (NSW), known as a ‘Bail Officer’ may also order that police take you to a mental health facility for assessment if it appears to the Bail Officer that you are a mentally ill person.

If you are not assessed as being a mentally ill person, or a mentally disordered person at the mental health facility, you are likely to be taken back into custody and brought before the Magistrate or Bail Officer in relation to the offences with which you are charged.

4B.6: Involuntary admission on a magistrate’s order

If a magistrate is satisfied that you may be mentally ill or mentally disordered under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) and you could not be personally examined because you were physically difficult to reach, then the magistrate can order:

  • a doctor or accredited person to visit and personally examine or observe you; or
  • the police to accompany go with and help the doctor or accredited person.

The police can, in these circumstances, enter your home without a warrant.

4B.7: Involuntary admission after transfer from another health facility

You can be transferred from a health facility to a public mental health facility and detained if the medical officer of the health facility or the Authorised Medical Officer of the public mental health facility believes you are mentally ill or mentally disordered under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW).

While a Schedule 1 is not required, the reasons for your transfer and the conclusion that you are considered mentally ill or mentally disordered should be recorded.

Updated March 13, 2020