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Record numbers of patients being sectioned under Mental Health Act

Better integrated mental health care commissioning is needed to stem record numbers of patients being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, experts have warned.

Latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSIC) show the number of detentions in NHS and independent hospitals reached 48,600 last year, an increase of 2,300 (5%) on 2010/11.

The report also showed the number of Community Treatment Orders rose to 4,200 in 2011/12, an increase of 400 (10%) on the previous year. CTOs place people on compulsory supervised community treatment with strict conditions.

The report, published this week, presents for the first time estimates of the number of ‘place of safety orders’ made under Section 136 of The Act where the person was taken to a police custody suite.

It shows there were an estimated 8,700 place of safety orders where the person was taken to a police custody suite made in 2011/12 - approximately one in three of reported Section 136 place of safety orders.

Daisy Bogg, membership services development officer for the College of Social Work which represents social workers said the rise in numbers of patients being sectioned was due to pressure on hospital beds, a lack of alternative services in the community and called for a more integrated approach to commissioning in mental health care.

‘The figures on detentions are, unfortunately, not surprising. The trend has been going up. Once upon a time more people went in informally but there´s so much pressure on beds now and no crisis services in the community.

‘We need more involvement from GPs and primary care generally, providing better alternatives in the community with a range of options. Mental health tends to be so far down the commissioning list.

‘We particularly need more integrated treatment for substance abuse and mental health. This is currently happening in some areas of the country but not in others.’

Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, the mental health charity, said:

‘The overall rise in the use of compulsion is very worrying. We are particularly concerned about the continuing rise in the use of CTOs. This is far higher than originally predicted when they were brought in, with previous research indicating CTOs are being used inappropriately in about a third of cases. While it is clearly important to ensure the safety of people with severe mental health problems, we know that many CTOs are used with people who have no history of non-compliance with treatment. This raises serious questions about whether the human rights of people with mental health problems are being overlooked.’

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: ‘This is the first time figures have been available showing the total number of detentions in police custody under the Mental Health Act of people in need of a place of safety.

‘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.’