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Voting rights for mental health patients

30 March 2015

Mental health patients, including those detained under the Mental Health Act, have the same right to vote as the general population. Only patients detained after having been convicted of committing a criminal offence are not eligible to vote.

However in practice, mental health patients remain one of the most disenfranchised groups. A study of the 2010 General Election found that psychiatric in-patients who were eligible to vote were half as likely to register as the general population, and if registered, were half as likely to vote. Nine out of ten of those unregistered cited a lack of knowledge of their eligibility to vote or of the registration process, with long-stay patients particularly disenfranchised.

Did you know?

• The vast majority of patients in the community can vote.
• Voluntary patients in mental health hospitals can vote.
• Patients under civil sections, such as section 2 and 3 of the Mental Health Act (MHA), can vote.
• Patients on a Community Treatment Order (CTO) can vote. Patients who lack capacity can vote.
• Patients who are homeless, of no fixed abode or in B&B accommodation can vote.
• Prisoners remanded to hospital under the Mental Health Act (MHA) on Sections 35, 36 or 48 can vote.

Who cannot vote?

Patients detained after having been convicted of committing a criminal offence and been ordered to hospital by the Courts cannot vote

The guidance launched by Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Central and North West London NHS Trust is designed to increase the knowledge of voting rights amongst mental health professionals so they can support and empower their patients to exercise their democratic rights and register to vote. Click on the downloadable link on right for more information.

The deadline for registering to vote is Monday 20 April.

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