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Approved mental health professionals (AMHPs)

We work together with Devon County Council and Torbay Council to ensure the provision of Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

AMHPs are registered professionals (usually a registered social worker, but might also be a mental health nurse, an occupational therapist, or a chartered psychologist) who have been approved by a local social services authority (in our case, either Devon County Council and Torbay Council) to carry out certain duties and functions under the Mental Health Act 1983.

AMHPs are responsible for considering requests to carry out Mental Health Act assessments on individuals in certain circumstances. In doing so, AMHPs will need to consider your fundamental human rights and whether there are even grounds to intervene in your life. They also need to consider the criteria set out in the Mental Health and Mental Capacity Acts, any relevant case law, and the various Codes of Practice, in order to ensure that any intervention we undertake with you is lawful.  

If the AMHP decides that their further involvement is required, they are responsible for coordinating your assessment and making the final decision as to whether compulsory powers are utilised in order to admit you to hospital or to make any other arrangements. The use of compulsory powers is sometimes referred to as ‘sectioning’.

Referring to AMHP services

People refer to AMHP services when they are concerned about an individual and are not able to provide the care or treatment they may need without the use of some legal authority. Referrals typically come from:

  • your mental health worker or your psychiatrist
  • another health professional, such as your GP or nurse working in a general hospital
  • the Police (where the individual has either been picked up under section 136 or is an arrested person in custody)
  • your Nearest Relative (this is different to your Next of Kin, as the identity is determined by legislation)

Other types of referral include those where consideration is being given to the use of a Community Treatment Order (CTO) or Guardianship order to support your care in the community.

You can contact the teams as follows:

  • Devon – Central AMHP Team - 01392 674 952 (Monday to Thursday, 09.00 – 17.00; Friday 09.00 – 16.30, excluding bank holidays)
  • Devon – Emergency Duty Service 03456 000388 (all other times)
  • Torbay - AMHP Service – 01803 396551/552 (Monday to Friday 09.00  - 16.30) 
  • Torbay – Torbay Emergency Duty Service – 0300 456876

Your assessment

Mental Health Act assessments can be carried out on people of all ages. The Mental Health Act does exclude certain mental health issues (such as addiction to alcohol and/or substances). If you are in doubt, you should discuss with an AMHP what may or may not be applicable. 

In most situations the AMHP will work with two doctors in order to assess you. Ideally one of those doctors should have knowledge of your situation and one should be authorised to carry out such assessment under the Mental Health Act 1983.

Assessments can take place in your home, on a hospital ward that you have already been admitted to, or in a place of safety.

Role of the AMHP

The AMHP will consider all the circumstances of your case and will need to interview you in a suitable manner, so that they can decide if the use of compulsory powers to detain you in hospital for the further assessment or treatment of your mental health issue is warranted. In order to do this, both doctors would need to provide medical recommendations to the AMHP before the AMHP can complete their application (i.e. the section papers). The AMHP then has the legal power to authorise your transport to hospital.

If the AMHP does not agree with the doctors’ recommendations you cannot be detained at that point and other arrangements should be made. It is important during this process that your Nearest Relative’s views are sought by the AMHP, along with those of others involved in your care.

While technically the AMHP has 14 days from the point of their interview, admission is usually arranged shortly afterwards. All detained people under the Mental Health Act 1983 have the right to appeal their detention to a Mental Health Tribunal and to have independent advocacy.

The responsibility for providing you with a hospital bed rests with Devon Partnership NHS Trust, unless you are under 18.  

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