The Mental Health Foundation has attacked the rise in the use of compulsory treatment for mental health patients, revealed by NHS Information Centre figures released this week.
These showed there were 16,100 patients detained in hospital as of 31 March 2009, compared with 15,200 in March 2008, alongside 1,755 under community treatment orders.
CTOs, which came into force in November 2008 under the Mental Health Act 2007, allow psychiatrists to place conditions on the community treatment of patients discharged from hospital, with breaches potentially leading to patients being recalled to hospital.
Mental Health Foundation head of policy Simon Lawton Smith said: “The increase in the use of compulsion is very worrying and runs contrary to the stated aim of the government which is to give people more choice and control over their health care.”
He claimed the figures “torpedoed” the Department of Health’s expectation that the introduction of CTOs would lead to a reduction in hospital bed use, releasing savings that could be invested elsewhere.
Legal question marks
Lawton Smith also raised concerns about whether CTOs were being issued legally, given the shortage of second opinion appointed doctors, whose role is to authorise orders and ensure patients’ rights are being safeguarded.
There were 2,134 CTOs issued in England from November 2008 to March 2009, far more than the 450 the DH expected to be imposed in England and Wales during their first year of operation.