There has been little published on the application of the Mental Health Act (1983) in the elderly. We therefore surveyed its use in a district old age psychiatry service covering a mixed rural and urban population with about 60,000 people over 65 years. The MHA was applied 36 times to 32 patients over a two year period. The primary diagnosis was a functional psychiatric illness in 64% patients (usually depression) and dementia in 36%. Functionally ill patients were most frequently detained on a treatment section (S3) and demented patients on an assessment section (S2). Only one patient with dementia was placed on a guardianship order. The outcome of treatment is described.
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