The Government has recently published supplementary guidance for Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs) to deal with whether or not IMHAs are entitled to see records that the patient would not be entitled to see, and if so, whether the IMHA can share that information with the patient.  

The supplementary guidance can be found here.

There are usually two types of situation where information in records will not be shared with patients:  

  • where the information would identify or relates to a third party; and
  • where the information carries with it a risk of serious harm (either to a third party or the patient themselves).  

The guidance says that such information should not be withheld from IMHAs save in exceptional circumstances, but that generally, where information is third party information, it should not be shared with the patient without consent. Where the information carries a risk of serious harm, the IMHA must not pass that information on to the patient. It emphasises that IMHAs are bound by a common law duty of confidentiality as health professionals are.  

The guidance also suggests that IMHAs should make clear whether or not they want to see information that would ordinarily be withheld from the patient under the provisions of the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the relevant Subject Access Modification Orders when they request sight of the records