On 1 December, there is a Mental Health Act (MHA) legislation change. This will expressly support doctors and social workers to complete forms electronically and send via email (rather than by post, fax, car, on-foot) when managing the admission, and treatment of a patient.

There has long been ambiguity surrounding whether completing forms electronically is allowed under the MHA and whether it is legal. This new legislation, laid before Parliament on 1 October 2020, affirms that it is.

It also means that the wording on several MHA forms will need to be amended in order for them to be legal.

Why is this happening?

The current Covid-19 pandemic has forced us all to think and work differently. This has meant that a lot of healthcare services have become remotely managed and so our adoption of digital technologies has really soared. Within the explanatory memorandum, released by the Department of Health and Social Care, they stated:

“These changes are being made because developments in information technology allow for integrated and secure information systems in the NHS, which serve patients by keeping relevant clinical information about them so that services can respond to the needs of patients quickly and appropriately. Such systems have the potential in this case to help professionals follow the requirements of the Act in ways that do not use their time unnecessarily, for example by waiting to receive signed paper forms.”

The two fundamental advantages of using digital forms (both outlined in the above) are that they can:

  1. enable mental healthcare professionals to perform their job more efficiently; and subsequently
  2. improve the experience the service user receives.

These in turn can result in further benefits including giving patients swifter access to care, elimination of errors to help reduce unlawful detentions and better access and use of data. Read our article about the benefits of going digital.

What does this mean for me?

The process of completing MHA forms is changing, more and more institutions are switching to digital. This doesn’t just include the NHS and local authorities but also private providers, insurers and other public sector organisations.

Many NHS trusts are already going digital; 84% having received a Thalamos Assess form in the last 60 days.

If you choose to continue using the paper process, you must ensure your forms have been updated with the new wording governed by the 1 December legislation.

We do understand that this MHA legislation change will put more pressure on already stretched MHA teams across the country. The timing being particularly difficult as we head into a challenging winter of Covid-19 compounded by an increased use of the MHA. We are here to help. If you’re worried about getting left behind, you can book in for one of our 1-on-1 walkthrough sessions or visit our 1 December information and resources section.

How do I know if a form is legal?

Whether paper or electronic, a form requires certain wording by the Mental Health Act for it to be legal. All Thalamos forms feature the specific wording requested by the MHA and will automatically update with the new wording overnight on 30 November. Therefore, all Thalamos forms are legally compliant. We have actually removed all of the unnecessary wording making them simpler to complete, and less prone to errors.

This legislation details where wording needs to be amended on the current forms.

Within the new legislation, you should check the recipient is happy to receive it electronically before sending a form.

In the past there has been uncertainty on the legality of electronic signatures, however they have the same standing as a ‘wet’ signature. When we first set up Thalamos, there was minimal legislation surrounding electronic signatures. We wrote an article back in November 2019 on this, and some of the content actually formed what is now actual legislation.

How do I know I am sending the form securely and safely?

Whilst it is expressly permitted to send forms electronically, you must follow information governance and GDPR guidelines.

A lot of it is common sense. The most important thing to remember is the form contains sensitive information and therefore should not fall into the wrong hands. Scanning a paper form and emailing it as a PDF is not secure as the email could be intercepted and the PDF easily accessed, not unlike if a paper form was to go AWOL en-route to a clinician or the patient’s hospital. If you are sending a PDF it should be password protected with the password sent via a different method, such as a text message.

The safest way to send a MHA form is via specialist document sharing software, a secure shared drive for example, (that has of course been approved by your manager or organisation). Ideally both parties have a log-in and there is an audit trail.

Thalamos sends an email containing an encrypted link. Only after the recipient verifies their name and email address are they able to access and complete the form via Thalamos. To make Thalamos forms accessible to all MHA professionals, only the author of the form requires a Thalamos account.

Where can I get help in implementing the change?

Hopefully your institution has already started to put things in place to transition to this new legislation. The Thalamos team is doing what we can to support all MHA stakeholders through this, particularly MHA admin teams.

To support our clients, all our forms will automatically be updated overnight on 30 November. Additionally, our Client Success Team has been busy training doctors, AMHPs and nurses on using Thalamos forms and digital forms in the broader sense. If you would like to attend one of our 1-on-1 walkthrough sessions, please book in

Although you should ideally be implementing the change on 1 December, there is a small grace period until 1 February 2021.

Further information is available at thalamos.co.uk/1december