Posted on: 30 May 2024

In the run-up to the general election on 4 July 2024 staff are being asked to promote voting rights in our inpatient units and community teams.

Mental health patients and those living with intellectual disability have historically been socially isolated, marginalised and disenfranchised. Despite changes in the law that mean that the vast majority of patients are eligible to vote research shows that they continue to face barriers to voting and have much lower voting rates that the general public. This is partly because many people, including patients, mental health staff and carers, remain unware of the rights of mental health and intellectual diability patients to vote. In addition to information barriers there are also psychological and/or physical barriers they have to overcome.

This is why it is important that staff and carers support patients to register and to vote.

We have created a page with resources for staff to use on voting rights which can be found here.

CNWL have been working to promote the voting rights of mental health patients for 15 years, in the belief that it is an important issue for all of us in society who believe in social justice and wish to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society.

In an article written by CNWL Consultant Psychiatrist Masum Khwaja for the Centre for Mental Health, he explains why supporting patients to vote is so important: “Measures that promote social inclusion and citizenship, and challenge mental health stigma and discrimination, are likely to improve the chances of recovery from mental illness. The right to vote is one such measure, and increasingly mental health clinicians and organisations are recognising the power of citizenship-orientated care to improve the lives of patients. If it were in my gift, citizenship-oriented care, and supporting patients to register and to vote, would be part of every patient’s care plan. We already support patients with accessing benefits, legal advice and employment so why shouldn’t we support them to register and to vote?”

It is important to remember that:

  • 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.

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

Anyone can also register to vote by post or by proxy.


Key dates



Deadline for registering to vote

23.59 Tuesday 18 June 

Deadline for applying for a postal vote

17.00 Wednesday 19 June 

Deadline for applying for a proxy vote

17.00 Wednesday 26 June 

Deadline for applying for a Voter Authority Certificate

17.00 Wednesday 26 June

Polling day

07.00 – 22.00 Thursday 4 July

To find out more on how to vote, visit the gov website.

Other useful links include: My vote my voice, Electoral commission and Rethink Mentail illness