Managing restricted patients in acute, non-secure in-patient services: clinical, ethical and resource implications of long waits for a response from the Ministry of Justice

Gunjan Sharma*, Penny Brown, Ijaz Rehman, Edward Chesney

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Aims and method
In-patients subject to Section 37/41 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) require permission from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for leave, transfer and discharge. This study aimed to quantify the time spent waiting for the MoJ to respond to requests, using data on restricted patients recalled to a non-forensic unit over 8 years.

Results
Eleven admissions were identified. The mean total time waiting for response was 95 days per admission, with an estimated cost of £40 922 per admission.

Clinical implications
Current procedures may contribute to considerable increases in length of stay. This goes against the principles of the MHA, as non-secure services rarely provide the range of interventions which justify prolonged admission. We suggest several ways to resolve this issue, including broadening the guidance for the use of voluntary admissions and civil sections, and allowing clinicians to make decisions on leave and transfer where there is little risk.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBJPsych Bulletin
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2021

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