Section 5: holding powers

These powers permit certain hospital staff to hold an inpatient on the ward until he can be formally assessed.

The patient is not subject to the Part 4 ‘Consent to Treatment’ provisions.

Doctor’s holding power (s5(2))

A doctor or Approved Clinician (not necessarily a doctor) may hold an inpatient (of any type of hospital) for 72 hours in the following circumstances (s5(2)):

If, in the case of a patient who is an in-patient in a hospital, it appears to the registered medical practitioner or approved clinician in charge of the treatment of the patient that an application ought to be made under this Part of this Act for the admission of the patient to hospital, he may furnish to the managers a report in writing to that effect; and in any such case the patient may be detained in the hospital for a period of 72 hours from the time when the report is so furnished.

Nurse’s holding power (s5(4))

Certain nurses may use this power, which lasts for up to 6 hours (s5(4)):

If, in the case of a patient who is receiving treatment for mental disorder as an in-patient in a hospital, it appears to a nurse of the prescribed class—

(a) that the patient is suffering from mental disorder to such a degree that it is necessary for his health or safety or for the protection of others for him to be immediately restrained from leaving the hospital; and
(b) that it is not practicable to secure the immediate attendance of a practitioner or clinician for the purpose of furnishing a report under subsection (2) above,

the nurse may record that fact in writing; and in that event the patient may be detained in the hospital for a period of six hours from the time when that fact is so recorded or until the earlier arrival at the place where the patient is detained of a practitioner or clinician having power to furnish a report under that subsection.

The nurses who can use this power are those registered in either Sub-Part 1 or 2 of the register maintained under article 5 of the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001 whose registration includes an entry indicating that the nurse’s field of practice is either mental health nursing or learning disabilities nursing.

If s5(4) detention is immediately followed by s5(2) detention, the 72-hour duration of the s5(2) is deemed to have begun when the s5(4) actually began (s5(5)).


Discharge takes place either on the expiry of the relevant time period, or when a decision has been taken not to detain the patient.

Routes to discharge In practice: Responsible Clinician only
Tribunal eligibility No application by patient or nearest relative
Types of discharge Immediate, unconditional discharge
References None


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