The number of Mental Health Act detentions to hospitals rose five per cent last year as NHS bed availability hit its lowest level in four years of data collection, official figures show.
Data from the health and social care information centre shows that, in 2013-14, the Act was used 53,176 times to detain patients in hospital for longer than 72 hours. This marks a five per cent increase on the 50,408 detentions in 2012-13, and 30% more than 10 years ago.
Detentions to non-NHS hospitals hit 5,163 in 2013-14, up 21% from the previous year’s 4,257 detentions. Over the past year, investigations by Community Care have shown how more patients have been sent to private hospitals due to a shortage of beds in NHS mental health units.
Community Treatment Order use ‘levelling off’
There were 4,434 new Community Treatment Orders issued in 2013-14, down from 4,647 orders issued in 2012-13. CTOs place people on compulsory supervised community treatment with strict conditions. The report containing the data said that the figures suggested that uptake of CTOs following their introduction in 2008-09 “may now be levelling off”.
Progress in cutting use of police cells
The figures also showed that police officers used their powers under sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 23,343 times in 2013-14, up five per cent from 2012-13 but lower than the 23,907 uses of the powers in 2011-12. Section 135, which requires a warrant from a magistrate, gives the police to search premises and remove a person in mental distress to a place of safety. Section 136 allows the police to detain a person who is in a public place to a place of safety, ideally a hospital, for the safety of the person or others.
In 2013-14, 73% of section 136 detentions saw the person taken to an NHS place of safety, such as a hospital, while 17% involved detentions to police custody. This marks an improvement from 2012-13, when two-thirds of section 136 detentions went to NHS places of safety and a third to police custody. Official guidance states that police stations should be used as places of safety in “exceptional circumstances only”. The government has pledged to cut the use of police cells for mentally unwell people by 50% by the end of this financial year.