Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

Understanding Compulsory Assessment & Treatment

Most people agree to receive treatment from Mental Health Services. It is always preferable to work together with the person needing help and with their family/whanau. It is only when there is no other positive alternative that people are sometimes treated without their consent - for their own health and safety and for the protection of others.

All such compulsory treatment is very tightly regulated by the Mental Health(Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act, 1992).

For compulsory psychiatric assessment & treatment to be permissible under the Act there must be:

Mental disorder in relation to any person, means an abnormal state of mind (whether of a continuous or an intermittent nature), characterised by delusions, or by disorders of mood or perception or volition or cognition, of such a degree that it either -
  • Poses a serious danger to the health or safety of that person or others; or
  • Seriously diminishes the capacity of that person to take care of himself or herself

However, the procedures prescribed shall not be invoked in respect of any person by reason only of -

  • That person's political, religious, or cultural beliefs; or
  • That person's sexual preferences; or
  • That person's criminal or delinquent behaviour; or
  • Substance abuse; or
  • Intellectual disability.
Only where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the proposed patient is mentally disordered does the next stage of the procedure apply. Otherwise the proposed patient is free from further assessment and treatment under the Act.

Special and Restricted Patients:

These are mentally disordered persons found to be 'under disability' meaning not responsible for any offending, and directed to undergo admission to a secure facility and treatment. This provision is applied to serious offending endangering others, and prescribes the management of the patient.

Who makes the Assessment and the Decisions?

The psychiatrist and other members of the treatment team consider all the available information and make the decision whether to treat the person without their consent. Ultimately a family Court Judge will determine if compulsory treatment may proceed beyond 19 initial days.

Patients Rights:

Throughout the process the person receiving assessment and treatment is protected by certain rights prescribed in the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 and the Health and Disability Code of Patient Rights. These rights will be fully explained to the person undergoing treatment and to their Family/Whanau.

Family/Whanau Rights

Family/Whanau can expect to be consulted as to their family member, about their illness and about the impact the family member's illness has had on the rest of the family. The Family/Whanau has the right to be involved throughout the process of compulsory treatment. Family/Whanau will be informed when their relative has been admitted to hospital without their consent and about the time, place and outcome of the Judge's Hearing and any following hearings. Family/Whanau have the right to attend any such hearings.

Suspension and Reinstatement of a Driver's Licence:

When a person is admitted for compulsory treatment, or is a special patient, they will receive notice that their driver's licence has been formally suspended. This means that they are not permitted to drive until their responsible clinician assesses them as being fit to drive prior to them being discharged from the provisions of the Act. Permission to drive may be subject to conditions.

Expressing concerns or making a complaint:

When treatment is provided without a person's consent, staff of TDHB Acute Inpatient Ward Te Puna Waiora need to be sensitive to the issues that this may raise for the person's Family/ Whanau.

If you have any concerns or wish to make a formal complaint you can contact any of these people to help you.

TDHB Consumer Advisor - Sarah Gillington
Tel: 06 7537749 ext.8550


Family/Whanau Advisor
Can be contacted at Te Puna Waiora
Tel: 06 753 7749

Unit Manager
Can be contacted at Te Puna Waiora
Tel:06 753 7749, Ext: 75630
Clinical Nurse Leaders at Te Puna Waiora.
Tel: 06 753 7749, Ext: 7420


Customer Services Officer
Maggie Malin can be contacted at Corporate Office
Tel: 06 753 6139, Ext: 8825


District Inspector - Mr M Cochrane.
Tel: 06 758 6049


For further information please contact
Chris Sorensen,
Quality Coordinator
Tel: 06 753 6139, Ext: 8544

An independent advocate is also available under the Health and Disability Act.

Contact 0800 423 638 for further information.

Like Minds Taranaki gratefully acknowledges the financial support of this website by the Ministry of Health

Feedback is always welcome
Like Minds Taranaki, 06-759-0966, email:

Taranaki Mental Health Sector