Following consultation early last year on who should become responsible for commissioning IMHA services locally, the Department of Health has now issued the Mental Health Act 1983 (Independent Mental Health Advocates) (England) Regulations 2008. These regulations provide that, from 1 April 2009, PCTs must make IMHAs available to help “qualifying patients” and will be responsible for commissioning IMHA services. This can be done jointly with other PCTs or through partnership agreements with local authorities. PCTs should note the following key points:

  • Qualifying patients are:
  • patients detained under the Mental Health Act;
  • patients subject to a Supervised Community Treatment Order;
  • patients subject to guardianship; and
  • patients considering serious treatment such as neurosurgery or electro-convulsive
  • therapy (where the patient is under 18).
  • An IMHA must be independent of any person who is professionally concerned with the patient’s care or medical treatment in any way and their role is to:
  • help the patient understand the way that the Mental Health Act applies to them and their rights under it;
  • help the patient understand any conditions or restrictions they are subject to; and
  • help the patient understand and encourage participation in decisions relating to treatment.

On 15 January 2009, the National Institute for Mental Health in England published the Independent Mental Health Advocacy Commissioner Guidance, which can be accessed here. This includes advice to commissioners on developing a service specification, tendering, selection and monitoring. It also includes an example model service specification and engagement protocol.