Mental Health Act Detentions rise for 5th year

  • Use of Community Treatment Orders increases by 10% and Section 136 detentions by police rise for fifth consecutive year to record levels.

    Data from the health and social care information centre reveals that 48,600 people in England were detained under the Mental Health Act in 2011-12, an increase of 5% from 2010-11. The number of detentions is now at its highest level since monitoring of the Mental Health Act 2007 was introduced in 2007-08. 

    The number of people discharged from hospital under community treatment orders (CTOs) also rose to 4,200 in 2011-12, an increase of 10% on the previous year. CTOs place people on compulsory supervised community treatment with strict conditions.

    The College of Social Work's approved mental health professional (AMHP) network is currently investigating social workers' experiences of CTOs amid concerns that some doctors may be using them "coercively".

    There were 14,902 people detained under section 136 orders to NHS units as a place of safety in 2011-12, an increase of 5.6 per cent from the previous year and more than twice the number detained in 2007-08. 

    Another 8,567 people were detained under section 136 and placed in police custody. The 2011-12 report is the first time this data has been recorded - social workers and police officers have previously raised concerns that ‘place of safety' detentions in police custody were going unmonitored. Official guidance states that police stations should be used as places of safety in "exceptional circumstances only".

    The use of section 136 orders has been a continuing area of debate among police officers and social workers. Both professions have previously raised question marks over the accuracy of section 136 data while AMHPs have raised concerns that police use the orders "inappropriately" in some areas.

    Tim Straughan, chief executive of the health and social care information centre, said:

    Many people working in the area of mental health will be interested to know the extent to which police custody is being used and the fact that more than one in three place of safety orders is to police custody rather than a hospital.

    Simon Lawton-Smith, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation, said:

    Recent cuts to mental health services will only make the situation worse. But we need commissioners to be bold in investing more in prevention and early intervention services, to reduce the number of people who become so unwell that they need expensive compulsory treatment in the future.

    The reported 11% increase in the number of people subject to a CTO is a particular concern. We know they are used disproportionately among some patient groups, such as Black African-Caribbean men. We need better evidence that they are being applied appropriately as a less restrictive alternative to hospital detention, and not just as a way of freeing up scarce beds.

    Source: Community Care




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