A doctor at Graylands psychiatric hospital has lost his power to detain patients against their will after the Health Department received legal advice over changes to the Mental Health Act.
The experienced doctor, employed at the hospital since 1990, was told by the Medical Board in August 2011 that he could continue to perform the functions of a psychiatrist under what is known as the register of psychiatrists.
But advice from the State Solicitor this month after recent amendments to the Act meant the doctor was no longer able to admit and treat mental health patients involuntarily.
A spokeswoman for the North Metropolitan Health Service said the doctor stopped administering the Act on receipt of that advice.
She said there had been a review of the doctor's recent cases and there was no suggestion that any patient has been adversely affected as a result of his practice in administering the Act.
"All involuntary patients at Graylands now have a specified consultant psychiatrist as required under the Act," she said.
"The doctor continues his long service to Graylands in keeping with his role as a well respected senior medical practitioner."
It is understood the Health Department and Council of Official Visitors - advocates for patients in the mental health system - held urgent meetings yesterday.
The organisation was concerned about the legal ramifications given the number of people the doctor had detained at Graylands over the years.
Questions were being asked at the meeting about the correct definition for a psychiatrist under the Mental Health Act.
The council's 2011-12 annual report referred to the separate case of an overseas doctor being listed as a "supervised consultant psychiatrist".
"The doctor was exercising powers under the Act, such as making people involuntary (patients), which can legally only be exercised by a 'psychiatrist' as defined in the Act," the report said.
At that stage a psychiatrist was a person listed by the medical board.
In the latest case at Graylands, the doctor is not listed as a psychiatrist, though media reports referred to him as one.