Mental health tribunals: an issue for clinical governance

Claire Dibben (Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge, UK)
Mai Luen Wong (Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge, UK)
Neil Hunt (Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge, UK)

Clinical Governance: An International Journal

ISSN: 1477-7274

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this article is to examine reasons given by Mental Health Review Tribunals for discharging patients from detention and the effect the length of detainment had on the immediate outcome of discharged patients and to examine the effect on outcome from quality of reports and sources of evidence presented to the MHRTs.


All documentation pertaining to MHRTs heard in the Cambridge area over a 12‐month period were reviewed.


A quarter of tribunals heard were discharged, as they did not fulfil the legal criteria for detention. RMO non‐attendance was significant in this group. Unfavourable short‐term outcomes suggest that half of these discharges were premature. Improved aftercare compliance was associated with longer duration on a Section of the Mental Health Act prior to MHRT discharge.

Research limitations/implications

This study reflects practice in the service (with a relatively small number of in‐patient sections) and may not be generalisable to other populations.

Practical implications

Improvement in the quality of evidence including risk assessments provided at tribunals should prevent premature discharges whilst maintaining the balance between civil liberties and good clinical care.


This paper highlights the need for improvement in clinical practice and training. Whilst it is primarily of interest to doctors, all professionals involved in MHRTs can learn from it.



Dibben, C., Luen Wong, M. and Hunt, N. (2005), "Mental health tribunals: an issue for clinical governance", Clinical Governance: An International Journal, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 300-303.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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