New rights guide for Scotland’s mental health patients

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

The guide – 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 by mental health minister Maureen Watt, 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.

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.

Ms 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.”

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.”

She added: “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.”