• Common Law provides a broad provision to medical practitioners to detain a person impaired by a medical or psychiatric condition and are at imminent threat to themselves or others.
  • Frequent reasons where this can be employed include - alcohol/drug intoxication, acute head injuries, acute confusional states/delirium, dementia, intellectual disability and other psychiatric conditions
  • The medical officer should clearly document in the case notes the reasons for detaining the patient and the necessary interventions required
  • There is specific provision in the Mental Health Act for detaining patients with psychiatric conditions and should be employed when required


  • This action is provided by the Mental Health Act and applies only to those with mental illness
  • The requirements for detention are:
  • The person has a mental illness that requires immediate treatment
  • The treatment is available
  • The person is at risk to the safety of themselves or others
  • It is not necessary for the patient to refuse admission (he voluntarily remains in the hospital) before a detention order can be placed
  • A Form 1 will need to filled out (in addition to documentation in the case notes)
  • The patient is provided his Legal Statement of Rights (Form 7)
  • It may be advisable but not necessary for the patient to be admitted to a closed/locked ward

see Consent issues in psychiatric patients


Disclaimer: Note: The information described here relates solely to operational matters in the Emergency Department.  Every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the content. However, neither the author or the hospital will take responsibility for errors resulting from its use.  Please refer to your own departmental guidelines and verify all clinical decisions with a reliable source.  

Date Last Reviewed: 05/08/2004