The Mental Health Review Tribunal
This page provides information for carers about the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
If you are a designated carer or principal care provider:
- You must be notiﬁed if there is a hearing.
- concerning the person you care for(1).
- You may appear before a Tribunal inquiry and,
- You may appeal to the Tribunal.
What is the Tribunal?
The Tribunal is like a court of law. Its purpose is to uphold the rights of people who receive involuntary mental health care (both in hospital and the community), forensic and correctional patients, and some voluntary patients. It holds hearings (inquiries and reviews) to make decisions (orders) about care and treatments that hospitals and health services must follow.
The Tribunal consists of one, two or three members who may be a lawyer, a psychiatrist, a person with relevant qualiﬁcations (e.g., a social worker or psychologist).
What does the Tribunal do?
The Tribunal reviews the person’s detention when a doctor decides to detain a person in a mental health ward (assessable person) or rejects a person’s request for discharge and the person appeals.
After a hearing the Tribunal will issue an order. That order will say the person is to be:
- Discharged into the community or into the care of a carer.
- Discharged on a community treatment order, or
- Detained in a mental health ward for care and treatment(2).
For information on ‘Community Treatment Orders’, visit our website here.
An order will say how long the person can be detained in hospital or on community treatment. The Tribunal must review treatment orders when they expire or every three months for the ﬁrst year that a person is in hospital. Then every six or twelve months after that.
You can ask the treating team to tell you the date the order will expire, so you can prepare for the next hearing.
The Tribunal also reviews the care of voluntary patients who have been in a mental health facility for over a year.
Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT)
The hospital doctor must apply to the Tribunal for an order to give ECT to an involuntary patient or a person under 16 years(3). Any determination by the Tribunal will specify the maximum number of treatments.
Carers can attend any hearing of the Tribunal.
Forensic mental health treatment
The Tribunal also makes orders in relation to forensic and correctional patients.
How Carers are Involved
If you think you should be a designated carer or principal care provider but are not sure, you can speak to one of the treating team.
As a carer you can let the Tribunal know your views in writing, or verbally, – in person, over the phone, or by video. Although informal hearings can be stressful events for carers, and it is normal if you feel anxious. Family members and friends can come to a hearing to provide support, if the person wants them to be there.
If you want to speak at a hearing over the phone or by video, you should contact the Tribunal before the hearing so they can connect you. The staff in the mental health ward can also help you.
If you aren’t sure who can attend the hearing, you can ask the Tribunal before the hearing.
What Happens at Hearings?
Hearings are informal with some held in person and some by video. The Tribunal members will read the information provided by the treating team and ask questions about the person’s wellbeing. They will speak to the person, their legal representative, carers, and the person’s doctor.
A person in hospital who has a hearing can access free legal representation for themselves through the Mental Health Advocacy Service or choose to have a private lawyer. Carers and family don’t have a right to free legal representation at the hearing.
The names of people involved in Tribunal Hearings are not made public.
For information on ‘Information Sharing’, visit our website here.
You can ask the doctor to discharge a person who is detained in a mental health ward. If the doctor refuses the request or does not respond within three working days, you can appeal to the Tribunal. The appeal from a carer to the Tribunal must be on the form which can be downloaded from NSW Health.
You can appeal any decision of the Tribunal to the Supreme Court of NSW. However, this will be a lengthy and expensive process.
Where You Can Find More Information
More information is available at:
- Mental Health Review Tribunal
- Mental Health Advocacy Service
- Application form for an appeal by a person other than the involuntary patient
You can access all our brochures here.
(1) Section 78 of the Mental Health Act 2007(NSW)
(2) Section 35 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)
(3) Section 94 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)