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Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)

Independent Mental Health Advocacy is a statutory form of advocacy which was introduced in 2009 as part of amendments to the Mental Health Act. Anyone who is detained in a secure Mental Health setting, under the Act, is entitled to access support from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA).

Others who can access an IMHA service are those who have been provisionally discharged from hospital, those on supervised Community Treatment Orders, or voluntary patients who are considering serious medical treatment as a result of a Mental Health condition.

IMHA services provide an additional safeguard for patients who are subject to the Mental Health Act, and are specialist advocates who are trained to work within the framework of the Act. These services will not replace other advocacy services currently available to patients, but are intended to operate in conjunction with them.

What does an IMHA do?

An IMHA’s role is to help patients to obtain information about and understand:

  • Their rights under the Act

  • The parts of the Act which apply to them

  • Medical treatment they are receiving or might receive

  • Reasons for that treatment

  • The rights which other people have in relation to them under the Act

An IMHA will support patients to exercise their rights, which can include representing or speaking on their behalf.

IMHA's may also support patients in a range of other ways to make sure they are involved in decisions that are made about their care and treatment for example:

  • Care planning process

  • Mental Health Review Tribunals

  • Negotiate appropriate aftercare

  • Access other support or services

  • Raising concerns about their experiences/care

IMHAs do not make decisions on behalf of the person they are representing. This is the responsibility of the ‘best interest’s decision maker’ or health professional responsible for the care of the patient. IMHAs are there to make sure that people’s rights are understood and respected, and that their views and concerns are taken on board in the decision making process.

IMHA's are not:

Part of the multi-disciplinary team
Legal advisers
Medical experts
The same as family, carers of friends

An IMHA’s Rights

An IMHA has specific rights under the Mental Health Act for the purpose of providing support to a patient.

They have the right to:

  • Visit and interview a patient in private

  • Visit and interview any person professionally involved with a patient’s treatment

  • Request and inspect any records which relate to the patient

Where the patient does not have capacity to consent to an IMHA having access to their records, the record holder should:

  • Start from the presumption it is likely to be in the patient's best interest to be represented by an IMHA

  • Ask the IMHA to explain what information they think is relevant to the support they are providing the patient and why they think it is appropriate for them to be able to see that information

Provider

Dudley MBC’s IMHA provider is Voiceability.

Please note that Voiceability cannot accept referrals directly from people or their carers. Referrals will only be accepted through the Local Authority Social Care Workforce or member of the Mental Health Trust.