This information page looks at the role of the nearest relative. This is a term used in the Mental Health Act. It covers who someone’s nearest relative would be, what the nearest relative’s rights are and other important information.
You may find it useful if you care for someone with a mental illness who is under the Mental Health Act. You might also find it useful if you yourself are under the Mental Health Act.
The ‘nearest relative’ is a legal term used in the Mental Health Act. It is not the same as the next of kin.
The next of kin has no rights under the Mental Health Act. The nearest relative has some rights when someone is, or may be, detained under the Mental Health Act (this is sometimes called ‘being sectioned’ or ‘being held under section’).
Nearest relatives can ask for an assessment to decide if their relative should be detained under the Mental Health Act. They can also request that their relative is discharged from hospital. If someone does not feel their nearest relative is the right person for the role, they can apply to the County Court for them to be removed or changed.
The nearest relative does not have the right to be told everything about the person who is in hospital. This depends on whether their relative allows for information to be shared.