There has been a sharp rise in the
number of people with mental health problems being treated under
The NHS information centre last
month revealed a 14% increase over
a two-year period.in the use of detention powers under the
Mental Health Act.
One campaigner said the threat of compulsory
treatment now "hangs heavy" over patients.
In March 2007 there were 15,300
people compulsorily detained in NHS and private hospitals.
By March this year there were 700
Plus,.in March there were 1,755
patients on a community treatment order (CTO). These were introduced
in November 2008.
This totals 2,155 more patients in March being treated under compulsion
than two years previously.
However, Anthony Deery, head of
mental health operations at the Care Quality Commission, told journalists
that he believes there is no evidence that CTOs, in particular,
are being used inappropriately.
"CTOs are still very new,” he said. “We need to
look at evidence across a greater period of time in order to draw
conclusions about whether they are being used appropriately and
"To date, we don't have evidence
that CTOs are being used inappropriately."
However, But Ruth Cartwright, professional
officer at the British Association of Social Workers, suspects psychiatrists
use CTOs to “free up” beds.
"That could mean some patients
are set up, released before they are ready and when they are likely
to fail," she said.
Dr Rowena Daw, vice-chair of the
Mental Health Alliance, representing more than 70 organisations
monitoring the Mental Health Act, said "While positive risk
taking and choice are being seen as the way forward in all other
parts of health care, the extension of compulsory mental health
care takes us backwards and compounds the stigma of mental illness."
She added: “There is also
evidence that a high proportion of CTOs are being issued to people
from black and minority ethnic communities.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of
the mental health charity Mind, said: "The focus on coercion
detracts from individuals' ability to rebuild their confidence and
independence, both crucial for effective recovery, and the threat
of compulsory treatment hangs heavy over their heads to the detriment
of their mental health.
“We urge the Care Quality
Commission to investigate these higher than expected numbers as
a matter of urgency."
Last year research in the British Medical
Journal showed that enforcement of powers to detain people under mental
health law increased
by a fifth over ten years.
And earlier this year research in
the Journal of Advanced Nursing stated that forcibly
treating psychiatric patients with medication has no solid evidence
to support its use.
"The dearth of literature on this topic means that coerced
medication is not an evidenced-based practice," said the British