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Transfer From Prison - Section 47 of the Mental Health Act 1983 - Guide

What Is Section 47?

Section 47 is a direction made by the Home Secretary authorising the transfer from prison to hospital of a serving convicted prisoner. Any serving convicted prisoner can be transferred to hospital if two doctors recommend they should be treated in hospital and the Home Secretary agrees.

How Long Does It Last?

It lasts for up to 6 months. It can be renewed by the patient’s responsible clinician. After the first 6 months, it can be renewed for a further 6 months. After the second six months it can be renewed at yearly intervals.

How Does A Section 47 End?

  1. The patients’ responsible clinician can discharge them at any time.
  2. The Hospital Managers can discharge the patient. They review reports, usually prepared by your doctor, social worker and nurse and ask them questions and should also speak to you to find out what your wishes are. They can also adjourn for further information or make informal recommendations about your case.
  3. The Tribunal can discharge the patient either immediately or on a set date. This is a more in-depth review of the case carried out by an independent body consisting of a lawyer, psychiatrist and a representative of the public. A patient can only apply to a Tribunal to consider their case after they have been detained for 6 months and then after each annual renewal.
  4. If the order is not renewed the section expires and the patient is no longer detained.

If the patient’s sentence has not come to end and they are not yet eligible for parole, the patient will be returned to prison. If the patient’s section has come to an end they will be discharged from detention all together.

The Tribunal

In addition to discharging a person the Tribunal can make binding recommendations to the person’s doctor about leave, transfer to another hospital, guardianship or being put on a community treatment order. At the hearing, the procedure is informal, but the person does have the right to challenge evidence given by the professionals involved in your detention. We will do this on the person’s behalf.

Section 17 Leave

This allows the person to leave the hospital grounds for a period of time. It can only be granted by the responsible clinician. A person may not leave the hospital grounds without Section 17 leave, even for a short period of time. The leave is time restricted and can be subject to conditions such as being accompanied by a nurse. If the time limits or restrictions are not kept the person can be brought back to hospital, by the police if necessary.

It is up to the clinical team to make decisions about leave within the hospital grounds.


A person detained under this section can be given medication against their wishes for the first 3 months from when medication was first given. After that time, except in emergency, if the person still does not consent to medication, the opinion of a second doctor must be sough before the treatment is given.

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