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Independent Mental Health Advocate

Volume 485: debated on Tuesday 16 December 2008

As a result of the Government’s Mental Health Act 2007, from 1 April 2009 statutory access to an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) will be available to qualifying patients in England under the Mental Health Act 1983. IMHAs will help patients to understand the way the Mental Health Act applies to them, and what can and cannot be done as a result. They will also help patients to understand their rights under the Act, and to support them in exercising those rights.

At the end of last year, the Department consulted on draft regulations in relation to IMHA services. In doing so, we specifically sought views on who should commission IMHA services locally. It was clear from responses to the public consultation exercise that there were conflicting views on who should commission and provide advocacy services.

Having carefully considered these responses, the Government have decided that primary care trusts (PCTs) will be responsible for commissioning IMHA services, although to ensure local flexibility, we intend to allow them to exercise their duty with other PCTs and to include commissioning of IMHA services within the scope of partnership arrangements with local social services authorities under section 75 of the National Health Service Act 2006.

I have laid regulations today to direct PCTs to commission IMHA services and set appointment requirements for IMHAs. Comprehensive commissioning guidance will be published shortly, to assist PCTs in meeting their statutory duty. PCTs’ new duty has been reflected in PCT baseline allocations for 2009-10 and 2010-11.