There is growing concern with psychiatrists' knowledge of mental health law, in particular with the introduction of new legislation and more complex statutory arrangements for after care. Despite this, little systematic research has been undertaken in the UK. This study was designed to determine the knowledge of a sample of doctors in psychiatry in Scotland, of part of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984 which provides for urgent involuntary admission to hospital. A one in three sample of all non-consultant grade psychiatrists throughout Scotland was interviewed on the aspects of the Act considered essential to lawful detention. Knowledge of even this restricted part of the Act was poor regardless of experience. Evidence emerged which suggested that at times civil liberties might be compromised or the right to treatment denied. The findings clearly point to the need for increased emphasis on training in mental health law.
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