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Trust offers challenging and rewarding role for volunteers
03/10/2016

​Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is seeking people to join a team of independent volunteers to ensure that the rights of detained patients are protected.

The volunteers will be part of the Trust’s Mental Health Act Hospital Managers’ Committee, responsible for ensuring that patients are sectioned only as the Mental Health Act allows and can hear appeals against detention.

Open days are taking place across Norfolk and Suffolk this month, offering an insight into the role. There will be current post holders to talk to, along with service users and staff from NSFT.

The role would be suitable for those with a keen interest in mental health and the legal implications of detention under the Mental Health Act.  An ability to travel to hearings at Trust sites in Norfolk and Suffolk is also required.

Rob Bennett, is Vice Chair of the Hospital Managers’ Committee and took up his position in the team two years ago. He said: “I have a strong interest in mental health and believe it doesn’t get treated with the importance it deserves.

“What I like about the role is that you work as part of a team. Although we are independent of the Trust, the organisation ensures we are fully trained to be able to reach the right decision for the patient and the wider community.”

Mr Bennett, who has a background in finance, said the role was challenging but also extremely rewarding.

“You must be able assimilate medical reports and be able to listen carefully and ask questions in a constructive way.

“You also need to be able to put the patient at ease - we try and make the hearings as relaxed as possible without losing some of the necessary formality.

“It is the mechanism for deciding what is the best course of action for patients, taking into consideration the opinions of the medical staff who care for them.”

A committee hearing panel has the power to discharge any detained patients (except those under certain sections of the Act), to discharge any Community Treatment Orders, and can also order a review at any time of whether or not a patient should be discharged.

Volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds – the present team of Hospital Managers include a music teacher, a fruit farmer and a retired physiotherapist –  and applications are welcome from everyone, including ethnic minority groups which are currently under-represented.

The role involves sitting on 10 to 12 panels a year, and undergoing training and development days.  A fee is paid for attendance at hearings and travelling expenses can be claimed.

Open days will be held at the following locations: 

5 October 10.30am-1.30pm:  Upstairs meeting room, Wedgwood House, West Suffolk, Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 2QZ

5 October 2.30-5.30pm:   Park Hotel, Diss, IP22 4LE

14 October 2.30-5.30pm: Meeting Room 2, Fermoy Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, PE30 4ET

18 October 2.30-5.30pm:   Poppies, Carlton Court, Lowestoft, NR33 8AG

18 October 7-9pm:   MHT Room, Woodlands, Ipswich Hospital, IP4 5PD
  
26 October 10.30am-1.30pm   Horsham Room, Hellesdon Hospital, Norwich, NR6 5BE

For details on the open days, or for more general information, contact Susan O’Hagan, Legal Services Assistant at: susan.o’hagan@nsft.nhs.uk or Helen Dewson, Mental Health Act Legal Practice Advisor at: helen.dewson@nsft.nhs.uk