The Reliance GP Blog

Involuntary admission of patients to hospital for mental health problems.
Rod Beckwith October 20, 2016


In 17 years as a doctor in Australia I have never had to arrange for the involuntary admission of a patient to hospital. Such an action would be rare and extraordinary, not least because it amounts to depriving a person of liberty for a short period of time. The situation could occur though, and every GP needs to be equipped to deal with it.


How do you do it? Locally, the law involved is the Mental Health Act (NSW) 2007. As a GP you need to complete the form “Schedule 1: Medical Certificate as to examination or observation of person”. Thus, when the form is completed the patient is said to have been “Scheduled.”


With this form completed the GP can request the police to attend and take the patient to an Emergency Department or Mental Health Unit for assessment.


Why would you do that? Obviously, the only reason for calling on the over-burdened police force is serious mental illness or mental disorder. The reasons defined by the Act and the form itself are essentially limited to protecting the patient from harm or protecting others from harm.


As a GP, you must include details of the abnormal behaviour and conduct of the patient, and give background information that would ordinarily form part of the referral of a patient anyway. You should be documenting the impairment of mental function observed and the apparent risk of harm to anybody. Mental function impairment could be delusions, hallucinations, disordered thought, severe mood disturbance, or irrational behaviour.


The risk of harm includes apprehended risk of violence, excessive gambling or other forms of wasteful spending, and uncharacteristic sexual disinhibition.


Once the patient is taken to hospital they must be examined by two authorised doctors to confirm the situation.


The form can be found at:


Author: Dr Rodney Beckwith | Medical Director & GP | Reliance Health

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