What you should expect
Understanding your rights is the first step to feeling in charge of your own treatment.
You should always:
- if you’re able, be asked for your consent before treatment options are agreed
- be given what you need to make decisions, for example an interpreter if you or your family need one
- know how to complain and what the process is
- be given access to an independent advocate if you need to complain
Under the UN's Rights of the Child laws, your opinion must always be taken seriously when decisions are made about your treatment.
What about being sectioned?
If someone (a child or an adult) is sectioned, it's because they're not well enough to make decisions for themselves at that time. Usually they are taken into hospital.
Sectioning is designed to keep you safe if your behaviour or thoughts show signs of extreme distress, or you might be at risk of hurting yourself or someone else.
When you're sectioned, your rights about treatment change, but you should still be involved in the decisions about your treatment.
How to take control
Making your voice heard is important, and it's your right to speak up. Here are some tips to help you take charge.
- Before you see your doctor or health care provider, make a list of things you want to talk about
- At the start of the session, set out what you want to discuss (or just hand over your list if you've made one)
- Ask for a staff member you feel comfortable with to come to the meeting. Talk to them beforehand about what you want to say
- Keep a diary between sessions so you can share what's been happening more easily
If you don't want to take your medication, it's your choice. But it's important to speak to your doctor before you decide to stop.
They can help you explore alternative treatments or dosage options. They'll also help you plan to stop gradually and avoid any withdrawal effects.
If you want a second opinion, you can ask your clinician or GP to recommend someone else who will assess you.
Before deciding to get a second opinion, it's best to speak to your clinician about your reasons, as they may be able to sort things out so you can keep working together.
Complaints and how to make them
To make a complaint about treatment in the NHS, including CAMHS, hospitals, GPs and social services, follow these steps.
- If you're unhappy with how your treatment is going but you don't want to make a formal complaint, speak to the clinician treating you, or contact your local PALS (patient advice liaison service) at your hospital for confidential advice and support.
- Check the complaints process. Every NHS organisation has its own process, but they must all follow the same NHS rules. If you can't see the complaints process online, call or email the complaints department.
- Find out who to complain to. It will either be the service you used, or the commissioning group who paid for the service. The gov.uk website can help you find out where to send your complaint
- Send your complaint and wait for a response. Your complaint should be acknowledged within 3 days, with details of what happens next.
- Need to take it further? If you're not happy with the results of your complaint, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
If none of this works
You can write to your MP who can complain on your behalf.
Advocacy and support
Advocates are trained support workers who are not connected to your treatment in any way. They listen to your concerns and help you understand your rights.
Advocates can support you to make decisions about your care or can act in your best interest if you don't feel up to it.
The Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) has advocates (also known as case workers) who are specially trained to give you advice and support with your complaint. You're entitled to support from an independent advocate when you complain about an NHS service. To find out about complaints advocacy in your area, contact your local council.
If you're in hospital for a mental health condition, you may be entitled to help from an independent mental health advocate (IMHA). They are trained to listen and advise you. Ask the hospital staff for more details.
Advocates also work privately and through charities, so if you're not eligible for an IMHA, other options are available.
Self-advocacy is where you gain the knowledge and skills to be your own advocate, using self-help resources.