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The authors assessed levels of knowledge of section 136 between A&E doctors, senior nurses, and police constables.

Methods: Doctors and senior nurses in all (A&E) departments in the Yorkshire region were asked to complete a multiple choice tick box type questionnaire, as were police constables from the Humberside Police Force.

Objectives: Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 empowers the police to detain those suspected of being mentally ill in public places, and convey them to a place of safety.

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Only 10.3% of A&E staff and 22.8% of police had received any formal training.

Conclusions: The knowledge among A&E staff and the police of this difficult and complex piece of mental health legislation is poor and requires action through formal education and training.

Some 24.1% of all A&E staff and 10.9% of police constables failed to recognise that in order to place a person on a section 136 that the person has to appear to be suffering from a mental disorder and 27.2% of A&E staff compared with only 15.2% of police incorrectly stated that the person had to be sober.

The knowledge of who could empower the section also was very poor (fig 1).

There was a 100% response rate from the police as a result of the method by which they were surveyed.

Deficiencies in knowledge were identified in many key areas of section 136 (table 1).

Surprisingly 40.2% of police did not know that section 136 is a police power.

Seven members of the A&E staff and one police officer thought that any member of the public could place another person under this section.

Results: 179 completed questionnaires were returned, of which 16 were completed by consultants, 14 by Sp Rs, 24 by SHOs, 33 by senior nurses, and 92 by police officers.

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