Your rights in health

People with disabilities share the same general rights of access to health and social care as other people, but there are also some additional rights.

Legal protection

The law on disability discrimination gives people with disabilities important rights of access to health services and social services, such as doctors' surgeries, dental surgeries, hospitals and mobile screening units:

  • for example, your GP should not refuse to register, or to continue treating you, because of your disability

This also means that you have a right to information about healthcare and social services in a format that is accessible to you where it is reasonable for the service provider to provide it in that format.

For example, a hospital may provide forms and explanatory literature in large print or Braille to assist people with visual impairments, or arrange for an interpreter for someone with a hearing impairment.

Help and advice from the Equality Commission

The Equality Commission for NI provides advice if you feel you may have been discriminated against because of your disability. The commission's helpline provides advice and information about your rights.

Some of the changes which came into effect on 3 October 2007 affect people who have been diagnosed with cancer, HIV or MS and those who have mental ill health.

For more information contact the Equality Commission.

Mental Health

There is also specific mental health legislative protection, which covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health condition.

Assessment and treatment

Many people receive specialist mental health care and treatment in the community. However, some people can experience severe mental health problems that require admission to hospital for assessment and treatment.

People can only be detained if the strict criteria laid down in the Order are met. The person must be suffering from a mental disorder as defined in the legisation.

An application for assessment or treatment must be supported in writing by two registered medical practitioners. The recommendation must include a statement about why an assessment and/or treatment is necessary, and why other methods of dealing with the patient are not suitable.

Admissions to hospital

Most people who receive treatment in hospitals or psychiatric units for mental health conditions are there on a voluntary basis and have the same rights as people receiving treatment for physical illnesses.

However, a small number of patients may need to be compulsorily detained, the legislation explains who is involved in the decision about compulsory admission or detention and the individual's or their nearest relative's right of appeal.

Approved social workers

Approved social workers are specially trained in both mental health and the law around it. They are appointed by local trusts to interview and assess people and can make an application for admission where they consider that detention is the most suitable way of providing care and treatment.

Nearest relative

Legally the nearest relative has certain rights which can be used to protect the patient's interests. Usually, the nearest relative is the older of the two people who occur highest in the following list, regardless of gender:

  • husband, wife or civil partner
  • partner (of either sex) who has lived with the patient for at least six months
  • daughter or son
  • father or mother
  • brother or sister
  • grandfather or grandmother
  • aunt or uncle
  • nephew or niece

Out of the list above, a person who lives with, or cares for, the patient is likely to be regarded as the nearest relative. A person who is not a relative but who has lived with the patient for at least five years can also be regarded as the nearest relative.

The nearest relative has the right to:

  • make an application for compulsory assessment or treatment of the patient, or get the patient's social services in their local trust to ask an approved social worker to consider the patient's case
  • be told if an approved social worker applies for the patient to be detained for compulsory assessment
  • be consulted about, and object to, a social worker applying for the patient to be detained for compulsory treatment
  • discharge the patient
  • apply to a Mental Health Review Tribunal on behalf of the patient in certain situations
  • receive written information about the patient’s detention, rights and discharge unless the patient objects

The appointment of the nearest relative can only be changed by a court. The nearest relative’s power of discharge can be over-ruled by the doctor who is responsible for the patient’s treatment. This is if the doctor thinks the patient is likely to act dangerously if discharged.

More information 

Further information and guidance about the the legislation relating to mental health can also be found on the Office of Public Sector Information website.

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.