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Informal patients

Explains your rights if you're having treatment in hospital as an informal patient.

Can I get treatment if I'm an informal patient?

Yes – you have the right to get treatment for your mental health problem. As with any type of in-patient stay, you can discuss your treatment plan with your responsible clinician. And you still have the right to get treatment for other physical health problems, just as you would have in the community.

It's important to have regular physical health checks, because people with severe mental health problems are more likely to develop preventable conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Sometimes healthcare professionals think that physical health problems are symptoms of a mental health problem, and the concerns are ignored.

If you are worried about this, you could speak to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) in your hospital.

Can I be given treatment against my wishes?

No – as an informal patient you have the right to refuse treatment, including medication. You can only be forced to have medical treatment for your mental health problem if you are sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

See our legal pages on agreeing to treatment for more information about your rights regarding treatment.

Can I get support from an advocate?

It can sometimes be hard to get your views across to healthcare professionals, especially when you're not well. Advocates can help you make your voice heard. See our pages on advocacy to find out more about what advocates do, and how to find an advocate.

If you are in Wales, you also have the legal right to an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) if you are a 'qualifying informal (voluntary) patient'. See our legal page on IMHAS in Wales for more information.

But in England you don't have a legal right to an IMHA as an informal patient unless certain treatments are being considered for you, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or neurosurgery. See our legal page on IMHAS in England for more information.

This information was published in October 2022.  We will revise it in 2025.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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