26 March 2018

“Not only are the examples of injustice shown here shocking and tragic, they also show a failure by local NHS organisations to investigate complaints effectively” Rob Behrens, CBE, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman writes in Maintaining momentum: driving improvements in mental health care. 'Maintaining momentum' highlights failings in specialist mental health services (in England) and the devastating toll this takes on patients and their families.

In identifying five key themes for improvement, the Ombudsman highlights the importance of ensuring human rights in mental health services:

“Our casework shows that an individual’s human rights can be infringed as a result of poor care. For this reason, we consider ... human rights ... when applying the Ombudsman’s Principles for Good Administration. Patients who use mental health services should be treated with dignity at all times, particularly so in times of crisis ... It is vital to the trust we place in mental health services that they protect and respect our human rights..."

BIHR welcomes the Ombudsman’s own approach to integrate human rights into the application of their work, as well as acknowledging the role of human rights in delivering mental health services. In particular we are pleased to have liaised with the Ombudsman and to see the report contain a clear section on the legal duty of services to protect, respect and protect people’s human rights under the Human Rights Act. The report also flags BIHR’s resources, produced with staff and services, on how to use human rights in practice to deliver better mental health (and mental capacity) services. You can find this toolkit, and BIHR’s companion resources for people using services and advocates here.

Sanchita Hosali, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights, said:

“BIHR welcomes the emphasis placed on human rights in “Maintaining momentum: driving improvements in mental health care” by Rob Behrens, CBE, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. Our work with frontline staff in services, patients and advocates, shows that when human rights are properly understood and used in everyday practice, they can be the tool which delivers more dignified and accountable services. We share the Ombudsman’s call to ensure there is no loss of momentum in the implementation of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. Now is the time for NHS leaders to recognise the importance of human rights for frontline service delivery, and avoid the human costs so tragically outlined in the Ombudsman’s report.”

For more information on putting human rights at the heart of health and care, including resources for practice and stories of change: