Today I was asked to do a "Section", which is shorthand for conducting an examination under section 2 or section 3 of the Mental Health Act. The examination is conducted by a psychiatrist, another doctor who knows the patient (usually the GP) and a social worker (who represents the next-of-kin). If we all agree that the patient suffers from treatable mental illness, and is a danger to him/herself or others, and will not willingly be admitted to hospital for treatment, then we sign the pink forms and the patient is admitted against his or her will. You will be relieved to hear that all concerned have taken the matter very seriously at all "sectionings" that I have attended.
Anyway, I was asked to do the Section by the forensic psychiatry team, who are the chaps that look after patients whose mental illness has caused them to do pretty nasty things. The patient had not been taking his medication and had been getting increasingly irritable; the team were concerned that he might do something unpleasant with a knife before too long. He lives in a run-down area of our fair city, where knife and gun crime are the order of the day. So I turned up just after the agreed time, spotted the police car lurking just around the corner who were our backup in case of trouble, and also saw two rather smart cars parked near the house. I jumped to the obvious conclusion that these vehicles belonged to the psychiatrist and social worker, realised that they must have gone inside the house already, and knocked boldly on the door. There was no reply as the patient was not in - fortunately, because the psychiatrist and social worker turned up fifteen minutes later in two clapped-out old cars!
More by luck than judgment, I survived to tell the tale. Presumably the two smart cars belonged to local drug dealers.
Also today I met a new patient from the Welsh borders, who told me that her partner comes from a village deep within the Forest of Dean. This interested me, as this was the area in which John Sassall worked. She told me that the Forest is still rather cut-off from the outside world, and contains one or two eccentric characters who wouldn't have looked out of place on the "Doc Martin" television programme. The locals speak with a West Country accent, similar to that spoken in Gloucester. This information adds some colour to the descriptions in the "Fortunate Man" book.