Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) in hospitals
The experience of an inpatient admission, whether voluntary or under a section of the Mental Health Act (MHA), can be confusing and disempowering. Exercising your right to be informed and involved in your own care and treatment is difficult when you are distressed or when your views may be discounted as part of your ‘illness’.
In hospital, an advocate will help you get information about your legal rights under the Mental Health Act, including your care and treatment, medication or discharge plans. They can also explain your rights as an informal patient.
An advocate is independent and can help you to express your views in a constructive way. They do not work for the hospital and will keep your information and discussions confidential.
Advocates can be helpful in preparing for Mental Health Review Tribunals and other meetings, and can often attend meetings with you. If you want support on day-to-day issues in hospital, such as getting food that is appropriate to your religious or cultural background, or making sure your belongings are safe, an advocate will support you in making your concerns known to the staff.
An advocate can assist you in finding out about the services that might be available when you leave hospital. Where you are unhappy with the service you are receiving, an advocate can support you through the complaints process. If you are in hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act (MHA), you may be entitled to help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA).
Advocacy under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA)
Certain people – called ‘qualifying patients’ – are entitled to help and support from Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs). This includes people who have been detained under the MHA for longer than 72 hours, such as those under sections 2 and 3, and people living in the community under Mental Health Act guardianship, conditional discharge and supervised community treatment (CTOs).
Others who are not ‘qualifying patients’ but who are receiving treatment in hospital for mental health problems may also be entitled to IMHA support if they are considering certain treatments under the MHA, such as neurosurgery and electro convulsive therapy. Our community advocates can also help people who do not qualify for IMHA support under mental health act.
Information on IMHAs and how to contact them should be given to a person if they are admitted to hospital or accepted into guardianship. IMHAs can also be contacted by family members, nearest relatives, and certain mental health professionals involved in the person’s care and treatment.
Note: a person is not obliged to accept help from IMHAs if they don’t want to. The role of an IMHA is to provide information or help obtain advice on any rights that a person or others, such as their nearest relative, may have under the MHA, on any MHA powers being used by professionals which affect them, and any medical treatment offered to them, or being considered, in connection with their care under the MHA. It may be possible for IMHAs to assist with complaints about a person’s care and treatment under the MHA or to resolve problems with the services received under the MHA while in hospital or in the community. An IMHA cannot apply to a mental health tribunal on a person’s behalf, but can obtain information needed for a tribunal or assist in other ways, such as providing contact details for mental health solicitors and attending the tribunal hearing with you.
IMHAs are entitled to interview professionals and inspect medical records in connection with their role in assisting a person, as long as that person agrees.
When a person is discharged from a section or supervised community treatment and they are no longer receiving care and services under the MHA, their entitlement to IMHA assistance will end, but advocacy support is available for Salford based clients from our community mental health advocates.
Where we provide hospital advocacy
We provide mental health advocacy at Meadowbrook and Woodlands hospitals in Salford, and in specialist wards in Prestwich Hospital and attached services. Our advocates regularly visit wards on the hospitals and will introduce themselves to patients.