Independent Mental Health Advocacy
What is Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)?
It is a legal duty of the local authority and providers of care for patients detained under the Mental Health Act (including private mental healthcare providers) to provide information regarding IMHA support to all eligible people, and to support communications and referrals for those patients who wish to engage with the service. An IMHA is an independent advocate who is trained to work within the framework of the Mental Health Act 1983 to support people to understand their rights under the Act and participate in decisions about their care and treatment.
Who can have an IMHA?
You can receive the support of an IMHA if you are:
- Detained under the Mental Health Act (even if you are currently on leave of absence from hospital) excluding sections 4, 5(2), 5(4), 135 or 136
- A conditionally discharged restricted patient
- Subject to Guardianship under the Act or
- Are receiving Supervised Community Treatment (SCT).
- Being considered for a treatment to which section 57 applies (“a section 57 treatment”)
- Under 18 and being considered for electro-convulsive therapy or any other treatment to which section 58A applies (“a section 58A treatment”).
How can an IMHA help me?
The IMHA service can support you to take part as much as you want in decisions about your care and treatment. Our service can help you obtain and understand information about your rights. We can come with you to reviews and care planning meetings to help you put your views across.
You can meet your advocate in private and with your permission, the advocate can visit and talk to anyone who is professionally concerned with your medical treatment, and see any records relating to your detention, treatment or aftercare.
The service is confidential, we do not discuss your situation with anyone outside of Advonet without your permission. However, if you told us of a serious risk of harm to yourself or others, we might have to tell someone. We would always try to discuss this with you first.
Does an IMHA have any rights?
IMHAs have the right to:
- Have access to wards and units so they can visit patients
- See patients in private unless the patient is under close observation or in seclusion, or clinical staff advise against it for safety reasons
- Attend meetings with staff where patients ask for this
- Meet with and hold discussions with professionals involved in your care
- Access relevant patient’s records when given permission to do so by the patient. Where patients does not have capacity to consent to an IMHA having access to their records, the record holder should allow access to the records if doing so is necessary for the IMHA to carry out their role effectively.
How do I get support from an IMHA?
If you think you qualify for this service you can contact our Single Point of Access Team or ask a member of the ward staff, responsible clinician, or Approved Mental Health Professional to refer you for IMHA support. Our IMHA service includes specialist advocacy support for people with a learning disability.
Advocacy at Little Woodhouse Hall:
If you are an inpatient at Little Woodhouse Hall we can provide you with a mental health advocate. You might be on a Section of the Mental Health Act or you might be an informal patient. We have advocates who work with you to support you to raise your concerns and issues. We can support you at ward reviews, CPA meetings, 1-1 with staff etc.
Useful information and contacts:
- Understanding Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) for people who use services: A simple but authoritative overview of the legal right to advocacy and what advocates do. http://www.scie.org.uk/independent-mental-health-advocacy/resources-for-users/understanding/index.asp
- Understanding Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) for people who use services – Easy read: Easy read version of overview of the legal right to advocacy and what advocates do. (Print versions of both the above products are available by contacting SCIE). http://www.scie.org.uk/independent-mental-health-advocacy/resources-for-users/understanding/easy-read/index.asp
- Social Care TV film: Understanding IMHA for service users: This highly accessible five-minute film is aimed at service users. (Subtitled, audio described and British sign language versions available). http://www.scie.org.uk/independent-mental-health-advocacy/video-player.asp?v=imha-for-people-who-use-services
- Understanding Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) for mental health staff: This briefing focuses on staff’s legal responsibilities, how they can support IMHA and the benefits for staff. http://www.scie.org.uk/independent-mental-health-advocacy/resources-for-staff/understanding/index.asp
- Social Care TV film: Understanding IMHA for mental health staff: This highly accessible five-minute film is aimed at mental health staff. (Subtitled, audio described and British sign language versions available). http://www.scie.org.uk/independent-mental-health-advocacy/video-player.asp?v=imha-for-mental-health-staff
- Improving access to Independent Mental Health Advocacy for providers of mental health services: This resource explains how mental health trusts can offer an opt-out IMHA service. http://www.scie.org.uk/independent-mental-health-advocacy/resources-for-staff/improving-access/index.asp