Power to detain AWOL patients

Can I ask for some advice please on the below,

Section 18 MHA provides a power for an AWOL patient to to be detained and returned to hospital.

Recently I have been told by a few colleagues that this power only applies whilst on hospital grounds (for health staff) and that in the wider community there isn’t a power to detain and it is a police responsibility.

My view is that this is from a local policy point of view rather than a legal position, Is it possible to ask for some views on this?

Section 18 clearly allows that staff from the detaining hospital (or any other hospital with authorisation from the managers of the detaining hospital) have authority to take into custody and convey an AWOL patient, so anyone claiming that there is no authority to do so outside the hospital grounds is wrong. You have to be within England, Wales or Northern Ireland though!
See also paras 28.4-28.6 of the Code.
I’d suggest that even as a policy, telling staff they cannot retake an AWOL patient outside of hospital grounds is very questionable practice. It would get short-shrift in a coroner’s court. It would appear to fetter the discretion of people to use the legal power they are given under statute. It will annoy the hell out of the police (especially given Right Care Right Person National Partnership Agreement: Right Care, Right Person (RCRP) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

I’d resist that suggestion if I were you!

Mat Kinton
National MHA Policy Advisor
CQC (personal capacity)


It’s impossible to be AWOL in the hospital grounds! (Unless a restricted patient detained within specified unit)

1 Like

Ah yes, there is that.

1 Like

^^ What Mat said. :ballot_box_with_check:

1 Like