Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
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Independent Mental Health Advocacy and Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy

VoiceAbility provides Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) for the Trust for Dudley, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell and advocacy for informal patients in Hallam Street Hospital.

They also provide the Trust's Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA) for Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell.

The advocates provide issues-based, one-to-one advocacy. This means the advocate will agree a plan with the individual based on issues that concern the individual. Once these issues have reached an agreed outcome the advocacy service is no longer needed. The advocates aim to promote independence, supporting people to move towards being able to self-advocate. 

Contact details:

 Independent Mental Health Advocacy:

Tel: 01902 255 015
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Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy

Tel: 0845 0175 198
Fax: 0208 330 6622
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Please note Voice Advocacy services for the Trust are run by One Voice and POHwer.

What is an IMCA?

IMCA stands for Independent Mental Capacity Advocate. It is a type of advocacy introduced by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 giving some people who lack capacity a right to receive support from an IMCA in relation to important decisions about their care.

What is an IMHA?

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) is a statutory form of advocacy which was introduced in 2009 as part of amendments to the Mental Health Act. Anyone who is detained in a secure Mental Health setting, under the Act, is entitled to access support from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (some exclusions may apply).

Others who can access an IMHA service are those who have been provisionally discharged from hospital, those on supervised Community Treatment Orders, or voluntary patients who are considering serious medical treatment as a result of a Mental Health condition.

Who can the advocates help?

Under the 2007 amendments to the Mental Health Act, an IMHA service is available as a legal right for people who are subject to compulsion under the Mental Health Act. Specifically, people who are:

  • detained under the Mental Health Act (even if they are currently on leave of absence from hospital), excluding those detained under sections 4, 5(2), 5(4), 135, or 136
  • conditionally discharged restricted patients
  • subject to Guardianship under the Mental Health Act
  • on Supervised Community Treatment (SCT)
  • not covered by any of the above, but who are:
    • being considered for a treatment to which section 57 applies (a section 57 treatment)
    • Under 18 and being considered for electro-convulsive therapy or any other treatment to which section 58A applies (a section 58A treatment)

How can the advocates help?

One of the key duties of the IMHA is to support people who qualify for the service in obtaining information about and understanding their situation. This includes:

  • the rights and safeguards they are entitled to under the Mental Health Act (1983) and how to exercise these rights
  • the provisions of the legislation under which they qualify for an IMHA
  • the rights which other people (nearest relatives, for example) have in relation to them under the Act
  • any conditions or restrictions that they are subject to
  • any medical treatment they are being given, or is being proposed or discussed
  • the reasons for any treatment they are given, the legal authority for that treatment being provided, and the safeguards and other requirements of the act that apply to the treatment

The second key duty is to help patients exercise their rights. This involves:

  • representing them and speaking on their behalf
  • supporting them in accessing information and better understanding of what is happening to them
  • helping them to actively engage in the decisions that are made about their care and treatment
  • supporting them in articulating their own views

Who can refer to the advocates?

The Mental Health Act places a duty on mental health service staff to inform patients of their right to an IMHA service.  Anyone can make a referral to the IMHA service but the service has a statutory duty to respond to referrals from:

  • the patient’s nearest relative
  • the patient’s responsible clinician
  • an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) acting on behalf of a local social services authority
  • self-referrals from Qualifying Patients

It is the policy of the IMHA service to respond to all eligible referrals, no matter what the source.