Detention of general hospital in-patients under Section 5(2) is a rare occurrence. This study of the use of Section 5(2) in general hospitals uncovered a frequent neglect in following the guidelines of The Mental Health Act and The Code of Practice. Surprisingly the conversion rate of Section 5(2) to Section 2 or 3 was similar to that seen in a number of other studies conducted in the quite different setting of large psychiatric hospitals. A number of patient characteristics were identified that appeared to influence whether 5(2)s were converted to an admission Section. Each general hospital needs to develop guidelines to be followed when staff feel that a patient should be detained under Section 5(2) – an example of such a policy is included.
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