We are seeking a PhD candidate to undertake a project at the intersection of law and mental healthcare service delivery. The subject area is poorly understood by legislators, policy-makers, and the law, but directly impacts service user rights, and has implications for the perceived integrity of the system of compulsory mental healthcare.
Every year across England and Wales thousands of lay Hospital Manager Panels (HMPs) meet to review renewals of, and appeals against, orders detaining people in hospital, and Community Treatment Orders (CTO) under Section 23 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (‘the Act’). If an HMP thinks the criteria for detention or a CTO are not met, it can discharge the service user. As such, these panels have significant impacts for service users’ liberty. Since they require scheduling and involve the preparation of several written reports, there are also costs in administrative and clinical time. Finally, the wrong decision either way – to continue compulsory care, or to discharge – creates potential negative impacts beyond the service user, for their families and communities.
Despite both the scale and consequences of the HMP process, very little research has been done to understand them, especially as regards how HMPs are experienced by those who attend them (service users, health and social care professionals, panellists, family members, Mental Health Act Advocates, lawyers). Notwithstanding this, during contemporary discussions concerning reform of the Act, it has been variously suggested that the HMP power of discharge be modified, abolished, or transferred to the Mental Health Tribunal.
This project will begin to address the research gap by tracking a sample of HMPs from start to finish in one NHS Trust. The researcher will engage in a mixed-methods approach, drawing on semi-structured interviews, textual analysis, and observation, to develop a more complete understanding of the process.
At present, HMPs continue to be conducted via MS Teams. There are plans to move to a mixed scheme with in-person hearings arranged where the service user requests this. It is anticipated that much of the data could be gathered remotely.
Since little research exists in this area, this project has the potential to inform how healthcare organisations in England and Wales implement the HMP process, with important consequences for service users, clinical staff, and administration. Furthermore, if reform of the 1983 Act follows a similar timeline to past reform, this project will have the opportunity to influence development of the law. The supervisory team’s existing academic and professional networks will assist the researcher to disseminate their findings across disciplines and beyond traditional academic journals.
There is also the potential to expand the project into postdoctoral work. For example, by tracking experiences of HMPs across multiple trusts to assess consistency across organisations; or by conducting a similar exercise in relation to Mental Health Tribunal hearings, for which there is similarly little research on stakeholder experiences.
The successful applicant will have a background in either mental health research or healthcare law, and will ideally have some experience of research design and methodology.
Application process: Applications should be made in writing to the lead supervisor, Dr Suzanne Hodge ([Email Address Removed]). You MUST include the following
1. CV (max 2 A4 sides), including details of two academic references
2. A cover letter outlining your qualifications and interest in the studentship (max 2 A4 sides)