Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)

What is Independent Mental Health Advocacy?

Access to an IMHA is a statutory right for people detained under most sections of the Mental Health Act, subject to Guardianship or on a community treatment order (CTO). IMHAs are independent of mental health services and can help people get their opinions heard and make sure they know their rights under the law.

Who is it for?

Independent Mental Health Advocacy is available to:

  • Patients detained under the Act (except for individuals under sections 4, 5(2), 5(4), 135 and 136)
  • Conditionally discharged restricted patients
  • Patients subject to guardianship or
  • Patients subject to supervised community treatment orders
  • Informal patients (not under a section) being considered for treatment to which Section 57 applies.
  • Informal patients (not under a section) under the age of 18 and being considered for ECT (Electra Convulsive Therapy) or any other treatment to which Section 58A applies.


What can an advocate do?

The advocate can:

  • Visit and interview a patient in private
  • Visit and interview any person professionally involved with a patients treatment
  • Provide representation at ward rounds and Care Programme Approach reviews
  • Raise concerns about a person’s experience of care and treatment
  • Provide support at Mental Health Review Tribunals and Hospital Managers Hearings
  • Support patients to exercise their rights, which can include representing or speaking on their behalf.
  • Require the production and inspection of any health and social care records which relate to the patient
  • Help patients obtain information and understand:
    • their rights under the Act
    • the parts of the Act which apply to them
    • medical treatment they are receiving or might receive and reasons for that treatment
    • the rights which other people have in relation to them under the Act


The advocate cannot:

  • Work long term with a service user
  • Provide mentoring or befriending roles
  • Make decisions on behalf of the service user

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you independent of mental health services?
Yes. We are independent of mental health service providers.

Do you provide a confidential service?
Yes. Confidentiality is not absolute as there will be occasions where we have to break confidentiality if someone is at risk of harm. It is rare that we have to do this and we would try and resolve this with the person first where possible.

Do we share information with the person using the service?
Yes. We are their representative acting on their behalf so we would share all the information provided to us during conversations, emails or meetings that we have on their behalf with other professionals. Professionals engaging with us need to be clear about this.

How long can you provide support for?
We provide a short term, issue focused intervention that lasts as long as it takes to resolve the identified issues that we agree to work on. Our main focus is on people’s care and treatment, and each case is different.

Can the IMHA have access to the client’s information and hospital records?
The Mental Health Act Code of Practice states: “Where the patient consents, IMHAs have a right to see any clinical or other records relating to the patient’s detention or treatment in any hospital, or relating to any after-care services provided to the patient. IMHAs have a similar right to see any records relating to the patient held by a local social services authority. Record holders should start from a general presumption that it is likely to be in-patients’ interests to be represented by an IMHA who is knowledgeable about their case.”