Statement from Cumbria Partnership regarding the Provision of Section 12 Doctors

What is a section 12 Doctor?

A section 12 doctor is a medically qualified doctor with special expertise to enable them to assess a person under the Mental Health Act. They are usually psychiatrists, although some are general practitioners (GPs) who have a special interest in psychiatry.

There has been a reduction in the numbers of general practitioners who are section 12 doctors. Some years ago (around 7 years ago) CPFT agreed to temporarily support the CCG by  providing its on-call consultant psychiatrists to supply section 12 doctors, until a permanent solution could be found. The limited numbers of S12 Drs have been covering both the community and in-patients wards and this is not sustainable.


Stephen Eames Chief Executive of Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said:

We can reassure Mr Farron and Cumbria’s communities that patient safety is our utmost priority and there are no plans to remove this service now or ever. 

This issue is only about Section 12 Doctors who provide assessments under the Mental Health Act in the community.   These can be carried out by a number of medically qualified doctors including our psychiatrists but it does not affect the out of hours psychiatry cover provided by the Trust.

However we have been clear that the way that section 12 doctors are currently provided in the community out of hours is not sustainable or safe. So as a health system with our partners, including the unions, we are looking for a better and more robust way to deliver this service.

The background to this is that know from recent CQC inspections that we need to improve out of hours psychiatry cover within our inpatient units across the county. 

As part of this, we have reviewed the work undertaken by our psychiatrists; which for the last 7 years has included performing the role of section 12 doctors to meet the stipulations of the Mental Health Act in the community.

We had provided notice to our commissioners that we were unable to continue to provide section 12 doctor cover in the community some months ago so that alternative section 12 doctors could be recruited. 

However this has proved challenging, so in order to ensure that cover can continue to be provided we have come to an interim arrangement to continue to provide cover.

However it is clear that the current system needs to change in order to provide sustainable care both in inpatient units and within the community in the future.

In the meantime as a trust and with our partners we have been making improvements to ensure that the decision to request an assessment of a patient under the act is appropriate.

Most community assessments do not lead to a person being detained under the act. We have improved our evidence based clinical pathways within our Community Mental Health Assessment and Recovery Teams to ensure that an application for an assessment under the Act is appropriate - this has reduced the numbers of in hours requests for assessments.

We have also introduced the Multi Agency Crisis Assessment Service which enables team to access mental health professionals over the phone (including section 12 doctors) and get advice out of hours.

We reiterate that this service will not be removed but in order to look after our patients and staff properly we need to change the way it is delivered. These changes will not affect the level of care that our patients receive.