The article reviewed here is a Department of Health document ‘Independent Mental Health Advocates. Supplementary guidance on access to patient records under section 130B of the Mental Health Act 1983 ‘ which is freely available here.
The document has a useful summary at the beginning which indicates that the focus of this document is on information in a patient’s notes which they are not able to access but which may be accessible to the Mental Health Advocate. The obvious question here is whether the Mental Health Advocate is able to impart this information to the patient, if the patient themselves is not able to see the information directly. In the document the caveat that this is guidance is made and that a legal opinion should be sought where necessary in individual cases.
There are a number of situations covered here
– Should the IMHA pass on information to the patient, if the information wouldn’t be disclosed to the patient ‘because of a risk of serious harm’?
– Should IMHA’s disclose in advance to the record holder, the type of information they want to access?
The background to section 130B of the Mental Health Act 1983 is provided which relates to independent mental health advocates. This section includes information on access to records by the IMHA. There is then a discussion of some of the points above. As an example, the need to balance the IMHA’s right of access with other considerations relating to third party information is discussed. Within the document consideration is given to data protection legislation and duty of confidentiality and it is stated that:-
‘All IMHA services should have policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with these obligations‘.
There is also a rationale for some of the guidance relating to transmission or non-transmission of information from IMHA to patient which includes the principle of not doing harm.
In summary, this is a technical document relating to a specific part of the Mental Health Act 1983 which discusses the use of patient information by the Independent Mental Health Advocate.
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