Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)
If you are being detained under the Mental Health Act, you are legally entitled to help and support from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA). It is your right to be referred to an IMHA if you are detained under most sections of the Mental Health Act, whether you are in the hospital or on a Community Treatment Order (CTO).
Healthwatch Halton Advocacy Hub is commissioned to provide an IMHA service for the borough of Halton. The aim of the IMHA service is to ensure ‘qualifying patients’ have access to advocacy services that help them say what they want, meet their rights, represent their interests and obtain services that meet their needs. The purpose of the IMHA service is to help patients to fully participate in decisions about their care and treatment.
Who is eligible for an IMHA?
IMHA support is a statutory right for patients detained under the Mental Health Act. In certain other cases, individuals are also able to access IMHA services. Patients who are entitled to an IMHA under the Mental Health Act (even if on leave of absence from the hospital) are:
- Conditionally discharged restricted patients
- Patients subject to guardianship or
- Supervised community treatment patients Other patients (informal patients) are eligible if they are:
- Being considered for a treatment to which Section 57 applies
- Under 18 and being considered for ECT or any other treatment to which Section 58A
Who is not eligible for an IMHA?
IMHA support is not available to:
- Patients being detained on Section 4 until the second medical recommendation is received
- Patients under the holding powers of Section 5
- Patients in a place of safety under section 135 or 136.
What does an IMHA do?
IMHAs have had extra training about the Mental Health Act. They can help you understand:
- your rights under the Mental Health Act
- how to make your views heard by the people involved in your care and treatment
- why you have been detained
- any conditions or restrictions which apply to you
- how to appeal to your section.
IMHAs help you gather the information you need and can access your medical records if you want them to. They can go to ward rounds and meetings with you or represent you if you can’t go yourself.
People use IMHA in different ways:
- You could talk something through with an IMHA to help you understand your options.
- An IMHA can stay with you while you tell other people what you want.
- If you aren’t able to speak out for yourself or don’t want to, an IMHA can speak for you in a meeting.
- You might want help to understand why you are in the hospital or being asked to take medication.
- An IMHA can help you understand and use processes which are there to check if you can be discharged.
- An IMHA can work with you if you don’t have the capacity to make your own decisions. They can check your rights are being respected and could represent what you might have wanted to say.
How do I get support from an IMHA?
It is your right to be referred to an IMHA if you are eligible for the services.
It is important that the hospital or mental health staff tell you about your legal right to see an IMHA. This may have happened when you were more distressed, so it didn’t mean much to you at the time or you may have forgotten. But you can ask for an advocate at any time during your section or community treatment order.
If you think you qualify for this service you can contact our Independent Mental Health Advocacy Service or ask a member of the ward staff, responsible clinician, or Approved Mental Health Professional to refer you for IMHA support.
Make a referral
To make a referral to our IMHA service, please complete and return our referral form either by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or post to; Healthwatch Halton Advocacy Hub, Suite 5, Foundry House, Widnes Business Park, Waterside Lane, Widnes WA8 8GT.
If you need further information or support, call our 0151 347 8183 (Lines are open between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday. An answerphone operates outside of these times.)
Leaflets and Useful Resources
NHS England- Your rights under the Mental Health Act
The NHS have leaflets to explain in detail what information you should get:
- if you are sectioned
- what health professionals should or shouldn’t do
- what your rights and choices are
You can read these leaflets here
Guidance From SCIE
- Understanding Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) for people who use services: A simple overview of the legal right to advocacy and what advocates do.
- 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.
- 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).