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New rights guide for Scotland's mental health patients

24 May 2017

The Mental Welfare Commission launched a new guide today aimed at ensuring mental health patients have their human rights respected at key points in their treatment.

The guide - called Rights in Mind - is a practical document that lists people's rights when they are first admitted to hospital, when they are on the ward, when they are discharged and when they are being treated in the community.

It was launched at an event in Edinburgh today by Maureen Watt, Minister for Mental Health, with health care staff, patients, families and carers from across Scotland.

The guide was developed after feedback showed that, for example, voluntary patients were sometimes unaware of whether or not they could leave a ward, or whether or not they could refuse treatment.

Patients who are detained in hospital have an additional set of rights such as a right to be told how long they are detained for, and whether and how they can appeal against their detention.

Patients who have been admitted to different wards reported very different experiences, with some much better at explaining a patient's rights than others.

The guide is supported by a series of five short films showing interviews with ex-patients who talk about their experience, with nurses on pilot wards in Dumfries and Wishaw, and with the Commission.

Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt said: "Improving mental health is an absolute priority for this government and I'm very pleased to launch this new guide. I hope it will help patients and their relatives to understand their treatment, which we know is so important at a time that can be confusing and frightening. I also hope it will empower staff to feel confident that they're delivering the best possible service.

"Our vision is of a Scotland where people can get the right help at the right time, expect recovery, and fully enjoy their rights, free from discrimination and stigma. That's at the heart of our recently launched ten-year Mental Health Strategy which, like this guide, was fundamentally shaped by the feedback from organisations and service users."

Kate Fearnley, executive director, engagement and participation, Mental Welfare Commission, said: "Being admitted to hospital for mental illness can be frightening or confusing, particularly for new patients.

"People who have gone through that experience told us that it would have helped if their rights had been explained to them. Hospital staff have told us that patients are less anxious, and feel more empowered, when their rights are explained on admission to hospital. But that doesn't always happen.

"The guide was designed for use by staff on wards and in community mental health services across Scotland, but may also be of interest to patients and their families or friends.

 "It was developed in consultation with patients, relatives and staff, and has the backing of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Scottish Patient Safety Programme, and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

"We hope the guide and supporting materials will be widely used, and will help staff be confident that they are fully respecting patients' rights in mental health care.

Notes to editors

The guide will be distributed widely in Scotland, including to every mental health admission ward, along with a good practice document.

Copies of all of the materials can be found on the Rights in Mind section of our website.

Hard copies of the guide are available from the Commission. Please email jamie.wilson@mwcscot.org.uk 

Mary Mowat

0131 313 8777

Our Rights in Mind pathway is designed to help staff in mental health services ensure that patients have their human rights respected at key points in their treatment.

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