Volunteers Sought to Protect Rights of Mental Health Patients – 18/06/10

Volunteers are being sought by the NHS to help protect the rights of people in Dudley and Walsall who are detained under the Mental Health Act.

Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust is looking for Associate Lay Managers (ALMs) who will play an important role in ensuring that the mental health patients are upheld.

ALMs undertake a statutory responsibility on behalf of the Trust to hear appeals of patients detained under the 1983 Act and to consider discharge when detention is renewed and when Community Treatment Orders are extended.

Volunteers would be expected to attend at least three hearings per year, but in reality this is likely to be around one per month, and to be available for training and meetings as arranged. Hearings involve a panel of 3 ALMs and take between 2 – 3 hours; they are attended by health care professionals, the patient’s relative/friend, their solicitor and the patient themselves.

Hearings are normally held at the hospital at which the patient is detained, most hearings are at Bushey Fields Hospital in Dudley or Dorothy Pattison Hospital in Walsall.

Training will be provided and new appointees will have the opportunity to observe a number of hearings before sitting as a panel member.

Although the role is voluntary, ALMs are paid a sessional fee plus travel expenses.

The role requires an ability to reach fair and reasonable judgements based on written and oral evidence.

Mandy Poonia, Non-Executive Director at the Trust and lead for Mental Health Act matters, said:

“We have an excellent team of experienced ALMs, currently 13-strong. However, we are keen to increase the diversity of the group particularly with regard to ethnicity, gender and age. It is important that our panels reflect the population that we serve.”

Bill Carter, who has been an ALM for over 10 years, said:

“It was once a common perception that having a mental illness was due to some kind of personal weakness. We now know that mental health disorders have a biological basis and can be treated like any other health condition. Even so, we still have a long way to go to overcome the many misconceptions, fears and biases people have about mental health, and the stigma these attitudes create.

“Being an Associate Lay Manager, you can help banish this stigma and ensure that patients’ rights under the Act are protected. You can assist the professionals in supporting patients by bringing an independent perspective to their care.”

For further information, please call Sue Lassetter on 01384 244962 or John Farmer on 01922 858046.