An Independent Mental Health Advocate or IMHA is available to support any one subject to a section of the Mental Health Act. Our clients are either on a ward in a psychiatric hospital, on a Community Treatment Order (CTO), or under Section 17 leave.
We are independent of the NHS and have certain rights under mental health act such as the right to request information on behalf of a patient, and to see medical notes.
If you are under section is your statutory right to have an advocate to support you to have your voice heard about your care and treatment for your mental health condition. This service is free of charge and confidential.
What we do
We visit both psychiatric hospitals in Oxford. We have regular times when our advocates visit each ward, so that it is easy for patients to get hold of us if they need to access our service. We support them to better understand their rights whilst they are under a section, for example their right to appeal their section. We also attend meetings with patients to ensure that the professionals involved in their care are listening to a patient’s views and opinions surrounding their own care and treatment.
We adhere to a strict confidentiality policy that means that we do not share any information given to us by patients, apart from in exceptional circumstances. Our advocates visit both prisons in Oxfordshire, HMP Bullingdon and HMP Huntercombe in order to offer support to the prisoners there who are suffering with mental health difficulties. These particular prisoners may need an independent person to help them access services and seek improvements for the care they receive. We are also able to offer our service to people in the community to help support them with issues around their mental health care and treatment.
What we don’t do
We do not tell patients what to do, or give them advice or share our own opinions, nor do we judge any information a patient shares with us. We only support those patients who ask us to do so. No one has to have an IMHA if they don’t want one, however there is a duty on the Trust to inform each patient who is under a section about the IMHA service.
To be an IMHA you have to have achieved the ‘Qualification in Advocacy’ or the ‘QIA’, within a year of starting in the role. All the Oxfordshire IMHAs have this qualification or are working towards the qualification, and are paid to do the role. The service is funded by Oxfordshire County Council and so is independent of the NHS.