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Involuntary admission: being admitted to hospital against your will

An involuntary admission is when someone is admitted against their will to a psychiatric ward in a hospital.

In certain circumstances, you may have to be admitted to hospital against your will. This is an ‘involuntary admission.’

The Mental Health Act 2001 covers involuntary admissions.

The Mental Health Commission is a statutory independent body. They look after how the Act is used.

The Mental Health Commission

The Mental Health Act 2001

When an involuntary admission can happen

You must not be willing to go into hospital.

You must have one of the following:

  • A mental illness.
  • Significant intellectual disability.
  • Severe dementia.

You can only be admitted if one or all of the following apply to you:

  • You pose a serious risk that they may cause immediate and serious harm to yourself or others.
  • Your judgement must be so impaired that you need treatment that you can only get in a hospital.
  • Your condition could get worse if you don't get the treatment that could help your mental health.

An involuntary admission can't happen if you:

  • have a sole diagnosis of a personality disorder or social deviance
  • are addicted to drugs or alcohol

How an involuntary admission happens

There are 3 stages.

  1. A concerned person applies to a medical professional to have you assessed. This is usually a GP. The concerned person must have seen you in the last 48 hours. This concerned person must be over 18 and one of the following:
    • A relative or spouse.
    • An authorized officer who is an employee of the HSE.
    • A member of the Gardaí.
    • A concerned member of the public - any other concerned person.
  2. The medical professional must examine you within 24 hours of getting the application. They may recommend that you are admitted to hospital.
  3. A consultant psychiatrist in the hospital will examine you within 24 hours. If they decide you need to be admitted and you're not willing to stay, you will be admitted against your will.

Other circumstances for involuntary admission

You may be in hospital voluntarily and decide to leave the hospital against the advice of the staff. The consultant psychiatrist, nurse or doctor may decide to keep you in for up to 24 hours. This will allow time for an independent examination by a consultant psychiatrist. Depending on the outcome, you might be admitted against your will to hospital.

Your rights

The Mental Health Act 2001 protects your rights.

Mental health tribunal

The Mental Health Commission will refer your case to a mental health tribunal. They will provide you with a solicitor free of charge. The solicitor will visit you. They will help you prepare for your mental health tribunal hearing.

The tribunal will appoint an independent consultant psychiatrist. One that works for the Mental Health Commission.

They will:

  • talk to you about your case and re-examine you
  • review your clinical file
  • interview the consultant psychiatrist

Each mental health tribunal has a:

  • chairperson - a barrister or a solicitor
  • consultant psychiatrist - independent from the hospital and the mental health service
  • third person - not a registered medical practitioner, nurse, psychiatrist, solicitor or barrister

The tribunal will look at your admission to decide if it followed the law. Tribunals generally take place in the hospital.

The tribunal decision

The tribunal will make one of the following findings:

  • the procedures followed the law and you need to stay in the hospital
  • your case does not meet the conditions for involuntary admission. If so, you can be discharged. You may continue to stay in the hospital as a voluntary patient, if you want to.

Appeals

If you disagree with the tribunal’s decision you can appeal to the circuit court. You must do this within 14 days of the tribunal’s decision. Your solicitor will assist you with the appeals process.

Page last reviewed: 15/03/2019
Next review due: 15/03/2022

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