Tuesday, 12 July 2022
Patients who are detained under the Mental Health Act or subject to a Community Treatment Order can ask for their case to be reviewed by Associate Hospital Managers (AHMs).
The name “managers" can be confusing because it does not mean the people who run our hospitals. AHMs are appointed specially to look at whether people should be discharged. They are independent of the Trust and of our clinical teams who assess and treat people detained under the Act.
To find out more about the work of AHMs, we spoke to John Verdon, Lead Associate Hospital Manager at SWLStG.
Q. What is the role of associate hospital managers (AHMs)?
The role of AHMs is to ensure any detention is legal and appropriate by asking questions of the relevant clinical team to ascertain if continued detention is required and/or justified.
Reviews can be held at any time; however, they are usually held following an appeal by a patient or following the renewal of their detention by their responsible clinician, who is the person in charge of their care.
Q. How long have you been an AHM?
I’ve been an AHM for more than 10 years, initially at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and now here.
Q. What is your background?
I had a long career as a journalist (ex-BBC), in corporate communications (for BT PLC) and in general management roles. I retired 12 years ago and became a Justice of the Peace. I sit in the adult crime and family courts. I developed an interest in mental health issues because so many people caught up in the criminal justice system have some form of mental health issue. I’ve been Lead AHM at SWLStG for two years.
Q. Why did you want to become an AHM?
The role is very low profile – until this interview! And I felt my skills suited the role. It sounds cliched, but I really did want to give something back to society beyond paying taxes – having had a varied and interesting career.
Q. What do you enjoy about the role?
Each patient is unique, and I learn something new during every panel. Clinicians are often able to explain quite complex cases and conditions, so over a decade of doing this role, I often surprise myself with the knowledge and understanding I have accumulated. My colleagues are also a joy to work with – we have a great team of very committed and bright AHMs in this Trust. The Mental Health Law Office team is also great to work with.
Q. What is the difference between an AHM’s hearing and a mental health tribunal?
Both AHMs and tribunals apply the same criteria to their decisions. The tribunal is a judicial body that patients can appeal to have their section lifted. Patients have a limited number of opportunities to go to a tribunal, but they can lodge an appeal against their section any number of times to AHM panels.
AHMs act on behalf of the non-executive directors of the Trust, who have an additional duty of care to ensure that the executive directors and staff of the trust are carrying out their responsibilities towards patients.