'Waiting for the verdict': the experience of being assessed under the Mental Health Act

J Ment Health. 2022 Apr;31(2):212-219. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2021.1922624. Epub 2021 May 19.


Background: Following the Independent Mental Health Act review, there is increasing focus on this coercive part of mental health services and a call for service user views to be central to proposed changes. Although there are numerous studies into being detained in hospital, there is a lack of data exploring the service user experiences of the assessment process.

Aim: To explore the subjective experience of being assessed under the Mental Health Act (MHA).

Method: 10 participants were interviewed about their recent assessment experience and the transcribed interviews were analysed using framework approach.

Results: The overarching theme of person centred care emerged from these interviews with interconnecting sub themes: 1) information and options; 2) "the barrage of three"; 3) "sit down and listen"; and 4) service user voice.

Conclusion: As one of the first studies into service user experiences of MHA assessments, this exploratory study indicates that there is lack of person centeredness. The Independent Mental Health Act review has set a challenge for treating person as individual and increasing rights and involvement of service users. This study suggests service user's experiences do not yet meet this aspiration and they want to discuss these experiences and have their voices heard.

Keywords: Mental Health Act assessment; person centred care; service user experience; patient experience; coercion.

MeSH terms

  • Coercion
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Services*