The Role of the Nearest Relative (NR) is a legal term relating to the person who has responsiblities and powers under the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983 (Amended 2007). A Nearest Relative is not the same as the "Next of Kin" (NOK), which is primarily a term used in reference to relative or someone who is nominated to be informed about a person's medical condition or treatment.
A NOK does not have any rights under the MHA. However, the NR has the right to:
- Ask for a MHA Assessment
- Apply for admission to hospital
- Request discharge
Following a MHA assessment and a decision to detain a person in hospital and under some sections of the MHA, such as Guardianship, NR are identified and contacted by the Approved Mental Health Professional(AMHP) for their views regarding the person situation/hospital admission.
Whilst the NR has some rights, they do not have the right to be given information about their relative's mental health or treatment without their relative's consent. A duty of confidentiality still applies when sharing information.
Undersome sections of the MHA, the NR must be consulted:
- An AMHP must take steps (as far as is pratical) to inform the NR when an application is being made
- An AMHP must inform the NR of their powers rights under the act
- An AMHP will refer to the MHA and the Codes of Practice for due process if a reason not to consult be identified
The role of the NR is an important safeguard for people subject to the MHA to:
- Ensure their rights are protected
- to act as an Advocate for the person