The First Tier Tribunal has recently issued a guidance note reminding hospitals of their obligations under the Tribunal process[1].

As those involved in the processes will be aware, unless a patient is detained under Section 2 or subject to conditional discharge, the responsible authority has a statutory duty to provide written evidence to the Tribunal within three weeks of making a reference or receiving a copy of an application.

The responsible authority will be the hospital, and thus the relevant NHS Trust or, for a private hospital, the company running the hospital. The information required is set out in a previous practice direction on the contents of statements and reports in mental health cases.

The latest guidance note reiterates that all the information set out in this practice direction must be provided within the three week deadline. If there are good grounds for requiring this time to be extended, an application to extend that deadline may be made to the Tribunal.

The Tribunal is clearly concerned to find that there have been delays in compliance with this requirement and hence this guidance note.

The responsible authority has a legal duty to co-operate with the Tribunal. This includes providing secure personal contact details for the report writers. This enables the Tribunal to remind the person responsible if there is any delay and if necessary to serve summonses. The guidance reminds Chief Executives that they are ultimately responsible for the compliance by their authority with these requirements and in default, Chief Executives may be summonsed personally.

The guidance further reminds responsible authorities that it is the authority’s responsibility to ensure the attendance of witnesses at the hearings which will normally include all report writers.

Finally, the guidance reminds readers that a failure to comply with the requirements of the FTT can be referred to the Upper Tribunal to consider a penalty by way of punishment.