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Nearest Relative

Who is a Nearest Relative?

The Mental Health Act sets out who the Nearest Relative of a patient should be. As this is a legal role, unfortunately, there is no right for a patient to choose who this is. This is the first living person mentioned in the following list: 

  • husband or wife (or civil partner); 
  • son or daughter;
  • father or mother; 
  • brother or sister; 
  • grandparent; 
  • grandchild; 
  • uncle or aunt; 
  • nephew or niece; 

Half blood relatives are to be treated as full blood for the purposes of this list. The elder or eldest of two or more relatives mentioned above will be preferred to the other or others of those relatives, regardless of sex. 

Right to Request Discharge of s.2 or s.3

As a Nearest Relative you can order the patient’s discharge from section. In order to do that, you simply give the Hospital Managers 72 hours' notice in writing of your intention to discharge them. Your letter should contain the date and time and must be sent to the Mental Health Act Administrator. You can do this simply by handing it in to a member of ward staff and telling them what the letter is for. The patient’s Responsible Clinician (doctor) at the hospital then has 72 hours to disagree, if they felt legally justified in doing so. You can only use this power once in any 6 month period. 

Right to Object to s3 Admission

For someone to be placed on s.3, an Approved Mental Health Professional (a social worker) must make an application. When making that application, they must consult the Nearest Relative for their opinion. 

If the Nearest Relative objects then the patient cannot be placed on a s.3. An objection perceived to be unreasonable could lead to displacement proceedings.

In certain circumstances, it is not possible for the Approved Mental Health Professional to consult the Nearest Relative. In that case, they must show that they have made attempts to contact the Nearest Relative, or explain if doing so would come as an unreasonable delay. 

Displacement of a Nearest Relative

There are certain situations in which a Nearest Relative can be changed or removed. The main one, however, is that they are unsuitable and are not using their powers in the best interests of the patient. 

Should you require any further advice on this matter then please contact us.  

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