Aims and method: The Human Rights Act was incorporated into UK law in 2000, but little is known about how it is implemented in psychiatric care. We explored the understanding of multidisciplinary teams of the restriction and protection of patients' human rights using an open-response questionnaire. Content analysis was employed to summarise written, narrative data about the human rights of 102 patients in secure psychiatric care. Results: Our clinical teams considered human rights to be protected through risk assessment and management, ongoing monitoring, local policy and existing UK mental health legislation, Understanding of the proper and proportionate restriction of 'qualified' rights (such as article 5 liberty) and the positive enablement and promotion of human rights (such as article 8 family and private life) appeared to be limited. Clinical implications: A cultural shift in focus is required in mental health services to understand and ensure positive promotion of human rights. Clinicians should directly address the human rights of their patients and articulate the rationale for proportionate restrictions of qualified rights. Clinical policy, training and audit should explicitly embody the protection of human rights.