Coronavirus: amendments to Mental Health Casework Section processes

On 31 March 2020 the Mental Health Casework Section published some temporary changes to their normal processes in response to pressures arising from Covid-19. 

MHCS, who take decisions on behalf of the Justice Secretary in relation to restricted patients under Part III of the Mental Health Act, have made some amendments to their normal requirements in order to ease strain on resources. The full Q & A document, including a shorter form for urgent transfer requests can be accessed here, but in brief the amendments made include:

  • No advance agreement is now required for level or upward security transfer where there is an urgent need to transfer a patient with suspected Covid-19 from one mental health hospital to another, although MHCS should be informed as soon as practicable by email using the shorter transfer request template.  Where the move is a downward security transfer, advance verbal agreement should be sought from a MHCS senior manager.  In all cases, any Covid-19 transfer will be viewed as a temporary transfer, with a review date of six months, which means the hospital transferring out will retain responsibility for the patient.
  • Although Conditional Discharge Reports  and Annual Statutory Reports are still required, MHCS will accept CDRs in alternative formats eg an email from one supervisor copied to the other supervisor. The document emphasises, however, that clinicians and social supervisors remain responsible for the medical care and treatment of patients and MHCS must be informed about changes that affect a patient’s risk. As ASRs are a statutory obligation, MHCS must continue to receive these but they will accept reports older than three months provided the information remains valid, there is no material change to the patient’s mental condition and the Responsible Clinician sends a covering email to this effect.  The document also says that they will accept CPA reports as ASRs to avoid the need for a separate report to be prepared.
  • MHCS will accept requests for extending overnight leave via email applications, although this only applies to existing overnight leave and the MHCS will need to be satisfied that the patient’s condition had not changed since the authority for leave was given.

It should be noted that the document is time limited and specific to Covid-19 queries.

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