Assessment under the Mental Health Act 1983
The approved social worker (ASW) is a qualified social worker who has undertaken a further course of full time specialist training in mental health and been "approved" by a panel of assessors. They will collate all the information they can gather on the person's previous mental history, their family, their social and domestic situation, their present behaviour, and the name and address of the person thought to be the nearest relative, before making the assessment. They will then try to arrange for the person to be seen by their doctor (if this has not already occurred) and another doctor with specialist knowledge of mental health.
If the person's doctor cannot attend then another doctor, independent of the second doctor, will be asked to go in their place. In some situations, where the person is believed to be potentially violent, the ASW may ask for the police to attend during the assessment.
In nearly all circumstances, it is important that the person is seen by two doctors, who are independent of each other, as well as the ASW. The doctors and the ASW will interview the person, sometimes separately and sometimes together. They will agree about the state of a person's mental health, and if it is serious enough as to consider admission to hospital against their will. In coming to this view they will take account of social and cultural factors including ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, disability and whether the person is a danger to themselves or others.
They will consider whether the person can stay in their present situation, perhaps with extra support or treatment at home; or whether the person needs to be in hospital. In reaching either conclusion the ASW will have tried to take account of the views of relatives or others closely involved with the person.
The Data Protection Act 1998 defines the rules for processing personal information and applies to most paper records and to computer records.