Northumberland Independent Advocacy Service

The Northumberland Independent Advocacy Service (NIAS) is hosted by Adapt (North East) and provides services across Northumberland. These services are delivered by local teams of trained IMHA and IMCA advocates who are co-ordinated from Adapt’s head office in Hexham.

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) provided by Northumberland Independent Advocacy Service.

What is an IMHA? An IMHA (Independent Mental Health Advocate) is a specialist mental health advocate. The changes to the Mental Health Act meant that there is a legal duty to provide IMHA advocates for eligible people from April 2009. The IMHA is not there to replace existing advocacy, legal advice or support, but will work alongside them. This service is free and confidential.

Who is entitled to an IMHA? People will qualify for an IMHA if they are:

  • Detained under the Mental Health Act for assessment and treatment. (This does not include people detained on emergency short term sections, or detained in a place of safety)
  • Conditionally discharged restricted patients
  • On Supervised Community Treatment Orders or Guardianship Orders
  • Informal/voluntary patients who are discussing the possibility of serious treatment (e.g. Neurosurgery) for a ‘mental disorder’ (or ECT if the person is under 18 years of age).

What can an IMHA do? An IMHA can work alongside the person and:

  • Help them to get and understand information about Mental Health legislation, any conditions and restrictions on them, and their rights
  • Help them to get information about and understanding medical treatment (e.g. medication, therapies)
  • Support them to take part in care planning
  • Support for them to apply to, prepare for and attend Hospital Manager’s Hearings and Mental Health Review Tribunals and to understand the decisions that are made
  • Discuss aftercare and access support and services
  • Raise concerns about their experiences of care and support.

What can an IMHA do that another advocate can’t? In order to support people, and with their consent, the IMHA will also be able to:

  • Visit and talk to them in private
  • Visit and interview anyone concerned with their medical treatment (e.g. nurses or consultants)
  • Request relevant medical and social services records.

How will patients find out about the service? There is a duty on hospital managers, responsible clinicians and social services (in the case of Guardianship orders) to:

  • Inform patients about the advocacy service
  • Take all possible steps to ensure patients understand what is available to them and how they can access help
  • There is also a duty for information to be given to the nearest relative of detained patients, unless the patient requests otherwise.

Referrals to the service - Anyone can refer to an IMHA, but IMHA’s must respond to requests to visit an eligible person if the request comes from the person themselves, their nearest relative, the responsible clinician or an approved mental health professional. The person can choose whether or not to work with an IMHA when they have visited. Working with an IMHA does not affect the right to seek legal advice, or any entitlement there may be to legal aid. It does not prevent people from working with another advocate, but other advocates do not have the same legal rights and duties as an IMHA.

Referrals can be made between Monday and Friday, 9 am – 5 pm by calling 01434 600599. Alternatively, you can download a referral form (below) and fax it to us on 01434 605251. Referrals forms can also be posted to the Northumberland Independent Advocacy Service c/o Adapt (North East).

IMHA Referral Form (NIAS)

Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA)
provided by
Northumberland Independent Advocacy Service. An IMCA must be involved if the person is deemed to lack capacity to make their own decisions about the issue to be decided when:

  • The person has neither family members nor friends whom it is appropriate to consult on their behalf


  • The decision to be made is about serious medical treatment to be provided by the NHS


  • It is proposed that the person be moved into residential or nursing care for more than 8 weeks, or hospital for more than 28 days.

An IMCA may also be involved if there are safeguarding issues (regardless of the involvement of friends or family members) or in relation to care reviews.

What would an IMCA do?

  • Support the person who lacks capacity and represent their views and interests to the decision maker (e.g. the doctor or social worker)
  • Obtain and evaluate information about the decision to be made
  • As far as possible, ascertain the person’s feelings, wishes, beliefs and values
  • Ascertain if there are alternative courses of action
  • Obtain a further medical opinion if necessary

Referrals can be made between Monday and Friday, 9 am – 5 pm by calling 01434 600599. Alternatively, you can download a referral form (below) and fax it to us on 01434 605251. Referrals can also be posted to the Northumberland Independent Advocacy Service c/o Adapt (North East).

IMCA Referral Form (NIAS)

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