Mental health order levels far outstrip government expectations

Levels of compulsory community treatment of mental health patients are far outstripping government expectations, figures released by the NHS Information Centre have shown.

The statistics revealed that 2,134 community treatment orders were issued in England from November 2008, when they came into force, to March 2009. The government expected there to be 450 CTOs in England and Wales in the first year.

CTOs allow for detained patients discharged from hospital to have conditions placed on their treatment in the community, for instance requiring them to take medication, with those who do not comply risking a recall to hospital.

Concerns over supply of doctors

The figures will raise further concerns about the availability of second opinion appointed doctors (SOAD) – psychiatrists whose role is to determine whether the rights of patients under CTOs have been safeguarded.

The CQC, which runs the SOAD service, is currently looking for experienced psychiatrists to perform the role, after its predecessor in this capacity, the Mental Health Act Commission, raised concerns about the supply of SOADs in March.

In March, just before its functions were transferred to the CQC, the MHAC warned that there had been delays in processing CTOs because of the shortage of second opinion doctors.

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