Photographing patients detained under the Act

Dear Forum Members,

I wonder if anyone can advise me - We have received the proposal to photograph patient that are detained to the acute general hospital if they are detained under the MHA. This suggestion cam e following an incident where a vulnerable patient left the ward and it was difficult for staff to provide a description to aid police in returning the patient. I am aware that patients on forensic sections have the photographs held in their notes, but I am not aware that this is usual practice elsewhere.
Is anyone else aware of this being done?
Could any one offer a opinion on whether this can be permitted under the Act?
Thank you for your advice

Many MH trusts have policy and procedures relating to photography use in clinical care - its referenced in our missing persons process and also in our medicines code as we have photo ID here as one of our patient identifiable processes for prescription charts, may be worth contacting a few MH trusts local to you re their missing persons/absent without leave processes and patient photo policies. Obviously there is IG issues here too - safe storage and im also thinking sharing then… ??Section 29 of the Data Protection Act (1998).
I’ve seen some trust policy’s reference a photograph can be taken under
Part 4 treatment of the MHA 1983 for taking and having a photo.

Hello - the answer is given in Chapter 27 of the MHA Code of Practice:
para 27.22 *Hospital managers should establish a standardised system by which responsible clinicians can record the leave they authorise and specify the conditions attached to it. Copies of the authorisation should be given to the patient and to any carers, professionals and other people in the community who need to know. A copy should also be kept in the patient’s notes. In case they fail to return from leave, an up-to-date description of the patient should be available in their notes. A photograph of the patient should also be included in their notes, if necessary with the patient’s consent (or if the patient lacks capacity to decide whether to consent, a photograph is taken in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act (MCA)).

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I’d be interested in hearing more about this.

The Code of Practice sentence is badly worded but seems to say that a patient with capacity to consent is entitled to refuse.

Here are some paragraphs from a policy on the internet. The patient is told what will happen, not asked whether he consents, but even still the policy envisages the possibility of refusal. The policy mentions best interests but not capacity.

It is in the patient’s best interest that personal information including a true and up to date likeness photograph is readily accessible in the event of patients absconding and or patients leaving the unit where they may be a risk to themselves and or others. …

When patients are accepted to be admitted to the service they will be informed by the assessing staff that they will have their photograph taken as part of the admissions procedure. …

All patients admitted to the Forensic Services will be photographed on the day of admission. The responsibility to photograph the patient will be delegated as appropriate to either nursing or reception staff. However, due to the nature and presentation of patients at the point of admission, it may be necessary to have clinical staff carry this out. …

Should patients refuse to have their photograph taken; this matter will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) and the Caldicott and Legal Affairs Lead.