How to make an IMHA referral

This guide is for mental health nurses and other staff who are referring people for Independent Mental Health Advocacy to our Reading Voice service.
Photo of Propsect Park Hospital

Independent Mental Health Advocacy is a statutory right for adults who are sectioned under the Mental Health Act for care on hospital wards, or who are under community treatment orders (CTOs) or guardianships.

Our Reading Voice service has been providing independent mental health advocates (IMHAs) to patients since 2018, taking referrals from nurses, other hospital staff or community mental health teams. We also had identified eligible patients via our regular 'walk-the-ward' service at Prospect Park Hospital or placed leaflets for patients in communal areas.

During the pandemic our visits to Prospect Park have been stopped or limited by hospital rules or Covid outbreaks so we have reluctantly moved to providing most of our advocacy by phone or video calls in the meantime.

Professionals, or patients themselves, can make referrals for IMHAs by phoning our Reading Voice helpline 07365 519 920 (a temporary number while office is closed). If you email a request for an advocate, please include your contact number so we can call you back to check any details.

Referral checklist

When professionals phone through referrals, we will ask you:

  • Does the person usually live in Reading? Put their postcode into this checker if you're unsure. If they live elsewhere, you need to request an advocate from that area's advocacy organisation. Note, we will see people of No Fixed Abode.
  • Which ward are they on? To help us visit (if permitted) or call the correct ward for future contact.
  • Are they Covid positive? To help us risk assess when we can visit them.
  • Do they have their own phone? So we can contact them directly to give them privacy and to free up use of ward phones for people without phone access. 

During the pandemic we have been ringing all Prospect Park wards weekly as a replacement for our usual 'walk-the-ward' service, to check if there are any new patients eligible for an IMHA.  

If you are a friend, relative, charity worker or someone else who thinks a person needs an IMHA, please discuss this with the person's mental health worker; if you don't know who that is, please call our helpline on 07365 519 920.

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