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The Mental Health MHTS For Scotland

Researchers: Professor Jill Stavert | Professor Michael Brown

Project overview

The views and experiences of patients, named persons, practitioners and MHTS members

This project aims to undertake a comprehensive review and evaluation of how effectively the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland (MHTS) performs as a guarantor of mental health legislation and human rights standards in Scotland.

The MHTS became operational in 2005 and is integral to determining applications for, and against, compulsory treatment orders; established following a review of mental health by the Scottish government in 2001 and enshrined into the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Scotland Act in 2003, it is essential to the preservation of the Millan Principles.

This project, which will be the first of its kind in relation to the Tribunal, is especially important and timely for two key reasons:

  1. International human rights law relating to persons with mental disorder is increasingly promoting greater patient autonomy in care and treatment contexts, furthermore a UN assessment of the UK’s compliance with the Convention of the Rights of Persons with disabilities was initiated in August 2017.
  2. The MHTS itself will be absorbed into a unified structure in 2018, subsequent to which Scottish Ministers may seek to further extend its jurisdiction, which raises concerns about its mental health specialism being diluted. To date, the limited research on the functioning of the MHTS has all been quantitative and focused solely on the views of patients and carers.

To gather this data, the project team will undertake a mixed-methods approach and will include the perspectives of MHTS members as well as health and social care professionals across Scotland. This will be a part of a Scotland-wide, four-phase quantitative and qualitative study of the experience of patents, Named Persons, health and social care practitioners and Tribunal panel members.

This will provide a valuable and unique understanding into whether current legislative principles and Tribunal practices operate in accordance with relevant international human rights standards and to the benefit of patients. The project team will identify and make evidence-based recommendations to ensure Tribunal practices evolve to meet these challenges.

The outputs of this project will have far-reaching relevance, as other countries are being required to review their laws in accordance with developing human rights standards. The outputs of this project will be of interest to the Tribunal itself and to legislators, civil servants, practitioners, patients and carers both in, and beyond Scotland, seeking to ensure that their laws accord with developing human rights standards.


  • Professor Jill Stavert
    Edinburgh Napier University
  • Professor Michael Brown
    Edinburgh Napier University

  • Ash Patel
    Programme Head, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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