The particular focus of this chapter concerns the Nearest Relative, a legally defined role in mental health law and a controversial one which all approved mental health practitioners need to be aware of and understand. Underpinned by a dispute as to whether the use of a relative was, or ever has been, an appropriate way to provide a check on decisions made under mental health law, this chapter offers a necessary précis of the role’s progression. A historical account provides the reader with a vivid insight into the deliberations. Moreover the reader is alerted to the gradual development of social work’s role and the increasing influence of it especially in relation to how a relative should be viewed and in what respect they retain involvement. Emerging from the blurring of these roles, approved mental health practitioners nonetheless are obliged to be mindful of the Nearest Relative and engage with them, but this can cause confusion. This chapter weaves its way through this confusion by discussing the individual review and differing outcomes by each of the nations of the United Kingdom. Lastly case law developments while aiming also to help clear this confusion provide not only a real sense of the fluidity, but also as the authors put it the ‘sharpness’ which any contemporary effective approved mental health practitioner needs.
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