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Mental health services

Mental health facilities

Outpatient clinics

Most people with a mental health condition can be treated on an outpatient basis, meaning they will not have to stay in a hospital or psychiatric unit.

Treatment can take place at a dedicated community mental health centre, a day clinic that operates from the local hospital, or in some larger GP surgeries. 

Hospital care

Someone with a mental health condition can voluntarily admit them self to hospital if their psychiatrist agrees that this is the best course of action.

People can also be compulsorily detained at a hospital under the Mental Health Act.

Someone can only be compulsory detained at a hospital if they are suffering from a severe mental disorder, such as schizophrenia, and detention is necessary:

  • in the interests of their own health,
  • in the interests of their own safety, and/or,
  • for the protection of other people.

People who are compulsorily detained may need to be kept in locked wards.

All people who are being treated in hospital will only stay for as long as it is thought absolutely necessary for treatment.

Regional secure units

Regional secure units are medium-security psychiatric units. They are used to treat:

  • people who have been admitted by the courts under the Mental Health Act,
  • people who have been transferred from prison under the Mental Health Act, and
  • people transferred from an ordinary hospital ward because it is felt they need to be treated in a more secure setting.  

Secure hospitals

Secure hospitals are high-security hospitals that are used to treat people who are being held under the Mental Health Act, and who are thought to pose a significant danger to the public. There are three secure hospitals in England and Wales:


Page last reviewed: 12/09/2011

Next review due: 12/09/2013

NHS hospital services

Read about NHS hospital services including waiting times, admissions, discharge and travel costs

Same-sex accommodations

The NHS is working to ensure that all hospitals provide same-sex accommodation for all patients. Read about how this is being done.

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