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IMHA Service


What is an IMHA?

IMHAs are specialist advocates who are trained to work within the framework of the Mental Health Act 1983. IMHAs are completely independent of any person or service that is involved with the patient's treatment or care, and provide their services free of charge.

Who can be supported by an IMHA?

The following people (‘qualifying patients') have a statutory right to be informed about and to have access to the support of an IMHA

  • Patients who are detained under 5.2 or 5.3 of the Mental Health Act, even if they are on section 17 leave from hospital
  • Conditionally discharged restricted patients
  • Patients subject to guardianship (5.7)
  • Patients subject to a supervised community treatment order (SCT)
  • Informal patients being considered for section 57 treatment (psychosurgery)
  • Informal patients who are under 18 and being considered for section 58a treatment (ECT)

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What if a patient is not able to ask for support?

Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) and Responsible Clinicians should consider requesting an IMHA to visit a qualifying patient if they think that the patient might benefit from an IMHAs support.

What can an IMHA do?

IMHAs will help patients to obtain information about and understand

  • Their rights under the Mental Health Act
  • The rights that other people have in relation to them under the Mental Health Act
  • The particular part of the Mental Health Act that applies to them
  • Any medical treatment that they are receiving or might receive

IMHAs may also support patients in a range of other ways to ensure that they can participate in decisions that are made about their care and treatment. For example:

  • Engage with the care planning process
  • Access Mental Health Review Tribunals and Managers Hearings, prepare for them and understand the decisions made
  • Negotiate proper aftercare
  • Access other support and services
  • Raise concerns about their experience / care

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papersHow does having an IMH affect other Entitlements?

The involvement of an IMHA does not affect a patient's right (nor the right of their nearest relative) to seek advice from a lawyer, nor does it affect any entitlement to legal aid.

What rights does an IMHA have?

An IMHA has the right to:

  • Visit and interview a patient in private
  • Visit and interview any person who is professionally concerned with the patient's medical treatment
  • Require the production of, and inspect, any relevant health or social care records

All of these rights are subject to the patient's consent where they are able to give it. Professionals should be aware that any information shared with an IMHA will, in turn, be discussed with the patient.

Who can refer a patient to the IMHA service?

Referrals to IMHA can come from anyone and IMHAs have a duty to respond to requests to visit a patient received from:

  • Patients
  • Nearest relatives
  • Responsible clinicians
  • Approved Mental Health Professionals

A qualifying patient

  • May request the support of an IMHA at any time
  • May choose to end the support they are receiving at any time
  • Does not have to accept support from an IMHA

Before requesting an IMHA, professionals should, wherever practicable, discuss the idea with the patient and give the patient the opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not to request an IMHAs help.

AMHPs and Responsible Clinicians should not request and IMHA where they know, or strongly suspect, that the patent does not want the help of an IMHA.

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How do I get to see an IMHA?

Any qualifying patient or their nearest relative can inform and member of ward staff, their responsible clinician or Approved Mental Health Professional that they would like to see an IMHA. This will be arranged immediately and an IMHA will try to visit you within 3 working days.

To see an IMHA in Milton Keynes, see our Milton Keynes contact details.

To see an IMHA in South Bucks, Chiltern, Wycombe, see our Bucks contact details.

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