Detention under the Mental Health Act and long term leave

When to "cut ties" with the hospital

As a patient detained under the Mental Health Act, do you stand a chance of discharge after an extended period of Section 17 leave?

As a patient detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, do you stand a chance of discharge after an extended period of Section 17 leave? The short answer is yes you do. However there are some limitations we ought to be aware of.

What is 'Section 17 leave'?

Whilst detained under the Mental Health Act, you may be able to leave the hospital if authorised by your responsible clinician and going on leave should form an important part of your care. This leave is often referred to as section 17 leave.

Limitations of discharge and section 17 leave

The limitations on discharge following section 17 leave are carefully set out in the recent judgement of the case of DB v Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board [2021] UKUT 53 (AAC).

To summarise, the case was about a patient who was detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act. The patient was granted supervised leave in the community. Whilst on leave, the patient complied with his treatment and did not need to attend the hospital. By the time the patient brought the case for discharge before the Mental Health Tribunal, he had spent 11 months on section 17 leave and had not needed to attend the hospital. He was also deemed unlikely to disengage from treatment following a discharge.

It was held in the ruling judgement, that in order for a patient who was on extended section 17 leave to remain detained under section, the tribunal had to find that a "significant component of the patient's treatment" takes place in hospital.

In this case, they found that the patient did not meet that criteria for continued detention because he did not need to attend hospital and had not done so for the past 11 months. The notion that the patient needed to remain detained under section in order to continue taking his medication did not suffice.

How does this apply to you?

If you have been on section 17 leave in the community for an extended period of time and a significant part of your treatment does not take place in hospital then the recent case law would suggest you should be discharged. In this situation, contact us to help you progress an application for discharge of section.

How can we help?

We can review your paperwork and assess the prospects of discharge before a Mental Health Tribunal. We can also assist in lodging an application at the Mental Health Tribunal and represent you at your hearing.

If you need assistance with this or any other issue to do with detention under the Mental Health Act please do not hesitate to contact the Mental Health team at Hunt & Coombs Solicitors on 01733 882800 or email

Sandra Okoli, Solicitor

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.