Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs) provide an additional safeguard for individuals who are subject to the Mental Health Act (2007). They are specialist Advocates who are trained to work within the framework of the Act.

Hospital and medical staff have a duty to ensure that individuals understand that help is available to them from the IMHA service, and provide information on how to access the service.  Any information, advice and guidance must be given verbally and then followed up in writing. Depending on the circumstances, the responsibility for informing individuals of the above is:

  • hospital managers
  • responsible clinicians
  • responsible social services agencies
  • registered medical practitioners

Individuals must be told about the IMHA service as soon as is practical after they become a qualifying patient within a medical organisation. They should then be reminded of the service on regular occasions.

This service is funded by Lancashire County Council and is available across the county.

What is the role of an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA)?

The role of an IMHA is to help service users to obtain information and to understand:

  • their rights under the Mental Health Act
  • the parts of the Mental Health Act which apply directly to them
  • the medical treatment they are receiving or might receive in future - and the reasons for that treatment
  • the rights that other people have in relation to them under the Mental Health Act

The IMHA can support service users to exercise their rights, which can also include representing or speaking on their behalf.

IMHAs may also support service users in a range of other ways to ensure that they are involved in decisions that are made about their care and treatment, for example:

  1. accessing further support and/or services
  2. representing service users at ward rounds and Care Programme Approach reviews
  3. raising concerns about experience of care and treatment
  4. supporting the service user at Mental Health Review Tribunals and Hospital Managers Hearings

An IMHA's rights under the Mental Health Act

  • To visit and interview a service user in private
  • To visit and interview any person professionally involved with a service user's treatment
  • To request the production (and carry out inspection of) any health and social care records which relate to the service user

What type of person is eligible for the services of an IMHA?

  • Patients detained under the Mental Health Act (except for individuals under sections 4, 5(2), 5(4), 135 and 136)
  • Conditionally discharged restricted patients
  • Patients subject to guardianship
  • Patients subject to supervised community treatment orders

Other service users (informal patients) are eligible if they are:

  • being considered for treatment to which Section 57 applies.
  • under the age of 18 and being considered for ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) or any other treatment to which Section 58A applies.

Who can make a referral for an IMHA?

The IMHA Service has a duty to respond to any requests to visit a patient received from:

  • Responsible clinicians (RCs)
  • Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs)
  • The service user themselves
  • The service user's nearest relatives/next of kin

Advocacy in Action

Clive* is a 71 year old male with an acquired brain injury as well as mental health needs, which affect his short term memory and cause him to become disorientated. Clive is married and both he and his wife lived together in supported living accommodation until Clive’s deterioration in his mental health meant that he needed to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. In 2011, Clive was discharged from hospital on a Guardianship Order to a residential setting where he was required to reside for the purpose of care and treatment. Continue reading...

Make a referral

    • To refer, please complete an IMHA referral form and email it to [email protected]
    • A referral can be made by the service user, or on their behalf, by calling or emailing Advocacy Focus. Referrals will be responded to within 3 working days.

Call us Advocacy Focus on: 0300 323 0965 or email: [email protected]