Who can be the nearest relative?
Section 26 of the Mental Health Act explains who can be the nearest relative (NR). A patient can not choose their NR.
The term relative is defined by the Mental Health Act as a list. The list is below. The general rule is that the NR will be the person who comes highest on the list, however, there are other rules that may affect who the NR will be.
Men and women are equal. If there are two people who could be the NR, for example, mother and father, the eldest person would be the NR.
The rules that may affect who the NR will be are:
The nearest relative (NR) has certain rights under the Mental Health Act. These rights are explained below. However, the duty that healthcare professionals have to tell the NR information is not absolute. This means that in almost all cases information will not be shared with the NR if the patient does not want it to be.
What happens if someone does not have a nearest relative?
The County Court can appoint someone as nearest relative (NR) if the patient does not have one. The patient can nominate someone they would like to be the NR. However it will be up to the court to decide who the most suitable person is.
The approved mental health professional (AMHP) should try to identify who the nearest relative (NR) is during a mental health assessment.
The AMHP can apply to county court if:
it is not reasonable for the patient or anyone else to apply to court.
Does everyone have a nearest relative?
No. People who are in hospital under section because they have been in contact with the police or courts may not be able to have a NR. These sections are called forensic sections. The following people will not have a NR as defined by the Mental Health Act:
Restricted patients are offenders, or people awaiting trials, that are in hospital awaiting mental health treatment. They are monitored by The Mental Health Casework Section on behalf of the Justice Secretary. They have extra restrictions given to them because they may be a risk to the public. These restrictions include:
A patient on a section 37 without a restriction order may have an NR. However NR rights will be different.