This is one of many questions relating to the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) s 20. See:
- Detaining a voluntary patient in NSW (March 31, 2017);
- More on the treating the mentally ill by paramedics in NSW (April 17, 2017);
- Further commentary on the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) s 20 (April 17, 2017); and
- Again revisiting the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) s 20 (April 18, 2017).
To repeat, s 20(1) says:
An ambulance officer who provides ambulance services in relation to a person may take the person to a declared mental health facility if the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person appears to be mentally ill or mentally disturbed and that it would be beneficial to the person’s welfare to be dealt with in accordance with this Act.
Compare s 20 with s 19(1). That section says (emphasis added):
A person may be taken to and detained in a declared mental health facility on the basis of a certificate about the person’s condition issued by a medical practitioner or accredited person. The certificate is to be in the form set out in Part 1 of Schedule 1.
There is a prescribed certificate for s 19 because a doctor fills it out, it is passed to others and those others (hospital, ambulance officers, police etc) can detain the person on the basis of that certificate.
There is no form prescribed for s 20 – ie there is no form set out in the Act or its regulations. Section 20 authorises ambulance officers, to take action. Ambulance officers no doubt keep patient care records in order to record their observations that justified their detention and like any clinical record, to pass on to those involved in treatment to ensure continuity of care. The ambulance service has created a form for that purpose. In that sense the document is a ‘legal document’ (whatever that means – see What is a ‘legal document’? (February 23, 2017)). But a document that is produced by the ambulance service and completed as a clinical record is not the same as a medical certificate completed under s 19 and which must be in the form set out in the Act.
Once at a mental health facility the patient may be detained on the basis that the person was brought to the facility by paramedics who in turn relied on s 20 (see Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) s 18(1)(b)). To that end the record kept by the paramedics will go on the patient’s file both to demonstrate that the condition for ongoing detention has been met (s 18(1)(b)) and to ensure the patients ongoing care. The document itself is evidence of the fact that the person was detained by paramedics and the observations that they made to justify their decision. It does not have some special legal status, so, the question are photocopies of the clinical record ‘legal’ is not really relevant or even meaningful. The document is what it is, a record of the paramedic’s observations; a photocopy is just another copy. A copy can be used in evidence to proof the contents of the original (Evidence Act 1995 (NSW) s 48) so if the hospital ever had to prove that the patient was transported to hospital by ambulance, that the paramedics had relied on s 20 and had given details of their observations, then yes, the copy is ‘legal’.
I know when we transfer a patient from one Mental Health facility to another, the originals Forms must always be sent WITH the patient, or the receiving facility can refuse the transfer.
The sending facilty keeps a photocopy of the documents for the patient’s file at THAT facilty ….. but wherever the patient is, any given point in time, only originals are accepted.