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Book Review - A clinician's brief guide to the Mental Health Act

This book guides doctors through the mental health legislation they need to understand in their daily practice, says reviewer Dr Jeremy Phipps.

Few clinicians in primary care use the Mental Health Act on a regular basis hence knowledge can be variable. The problem remains that when it is used, there is usually a degree of urgency giving little time for updating this knowledge.

This book goes some way to support doctors in these infrequent situations, acting as a simple resource. Currently the Mental Health Act Code of Practice from the DH tries to do this but it is still quite cumbersome and does not interact with the other newer areas of mental health legislation.

Practical guide to the Mental Health Act
Due in part to devolved government, this book only deals with legislation in England and to a lesser extent includes Wales. It gives a very practical guide to the Mental Health Act but includes advice on the evolving guidance relating to the Mental Capacity Act.

The book is aimed mainly at junior psychiatrists or others looking to become approved under section 12(2) of the act but the breakdown in chapters and layout is helpful in providing easy access to information. 

Resource that helps to clarify
Mental health legislation is so rarely used by most GPs that being asked for an opinion on applying for a deprivation of liberty safeguards assessment or how community treatment orders work, would fill most doctors with dread. Having a resource such as this would at least allow understanding of the discussion if not giving the full solution. 

Understandably some chapters of the book will have little relevance to general practice compared to secondary care but again, it is there as a resource when the occasional question is thrown up by a concerned relative or another healthcare professional.

Clarifying the responsibilities of the individual professionals in applying the act is helpful; realising that the doctor only has to find the bed and the approved mental health professional has to arrange transport and cover all other issues is informative. Given the example of the urgent care in one case that had to be arranged for the patient’s 300 cows, this is a relief.

Occasionally I found the style a little too 'chatty' and personal but overall this is an extremely useful book, providing a comprehensive and simple guide to legislation. I would recommend every practice has access to a copy for these very infrequent but usually urgent and stressful cases for when it may be needed.  

  • Dr Jeremy Phipps is a GP in Lincolnshire
  • A Clinician’s Brief Guide to the Mental Health Act, by Tony Zigmond, price £18, is published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and can be bought online at www.rcpsych.ac.uk

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