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  • Project by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with the British Institute of Human Rights.
  • Focused on empowering mental health patients by supporting staff to respect and protect their rights in everyday decision-making and service delivery.
  • Developed and piloted a leaning and development programme to demonstrate the effectiveness of a human rights approach in mental health care.
  • Delivered between February 2019 and April 2020.

One of the biggest challenges in mental health services is balancing patients’ rights with risks and harms, and staff are often faced with making difficult decisions. A human rights-based approach provides a legal framework for making such decisions. It supports staff to think about whether the rights involved can be restricted or not, and if so, what is the least restrictive way of doing so. This approach can help staff feel more confident and less overwhelmed.

This project aimed to better understand how a human rights-based approach can be embedded in mental health care, empowering people to know what their human rights are and how to use them in practice.

A tailored learning and development programme was developed and implemented across two pilot sites: mental health services for older people and an early intervention in psychosis and psychosis community service. The programme involved: mapping the core human rights issues for the two services; training staff and building competence and confidence in applying human rights in practice; delivering workshops to support service users, carers and ‘experts by experience’ to claim their rights; and co-producing human rights tools and resources for staff, management and service users.

During the pilots, 66 staff attended at least one of three training sessions. There were challenges around ensuring all staff attended all sessions, and it was also found that one session may not be enough to sustain knowledge and confidence.

The project has highlighted that human rights has a significant potential to drive and support a more wellbeing and recovery orientated approach to mental health care.

Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact Sarah Dallal.

About this programme

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