Mental Health Act: Demand for community orders swamps services

Mental health services are struggling to deal with a high demand for community treatment orders which has far exceeded official estimates, according to the Mental Health Act Commision.

More than 1,200 people in England have been made subject to compulsory treatment outside hospital five months after the powers were introduced under the Mental Health Act 2007.

Commission chief apologises

Gemma Pearce, chief executive of the MHAC, admitted there had been delays in processing applications for the new orders due to a shortage of ‘second opinion doctors’ – psychiatrists appointed to authorise the orders, also known as supervised community treatment.

In a statement on the commission’s website she apologised for the situation, and added that the level of demand had “far exceeded expectations”.

Campaigners issue warning

The Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of 77 charities and other organisations, csaid the demand for CTOs had placed NHS resources under strain since the implementation of the Mental Health Act 2007, which came into effect in England and Wales in November 2008.

Simon Lawton-Smith, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation who is leading on community treatment orders for the alliance, said: “It is already evident that the government has underestimated the likely numbers of people being put on supervised community treatment. We believe that the number could rise to some 10,000 people over the next decade.”  

Recruitment drive

Pearce added that although the commission had recently recruited 30 consultant psychiatrists to become second opinion doctors, more were still needed, and urged people to consider the role.

The intervention will be one of the last made by the MHAC, which is closing this week with its functions being absorbed by the Care Quality Commission.

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