Bournewood Community and Mental Health NHS Trust, ex parte L [1998] 3 All ER 289 (HL)

Mental health – consent – incapacity – necessity – informal admissions

A hospital was entitled to treat, and to care for, patients who were admitted informally under s131(1) Mental Health Act 1983, but who lacked the capacity to consent to such treatment or care. It was plainly the statutory intention that such patients would indeed be cared for, and receive such treatment for their condition as might be prescribed for them in their best interests, provided they did not manifestly object to the treatment. The removal, treatment and care of such patients could be justified on the basis of the common law doctrine of necessity.


*On 15 November 2001, the Health Service Ombudsman upheld a complaint by his carers against Bournewood NHS Trust’s detention of L. The Ombudsman concluded that although the initial admission itself was not unreasonable, the continued detention of the patient for a period of four months, when he could have been discharged the next day into the hands of his carers and properly assessed in the community, was unsatisfactory.

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