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01.12.16

CQC launches Mental Health Act investigation as detentions hit new high

Following a warning issued late last month, the CQC has now promised to investigate the rate of patients being detained under the Mental Health Act as the latest figures show detentions have continued to grow.

Newly released figures from NHS Digital show that 63,622 people were detained in 2015-16, a 9% growth from the previous year.

At the end of March, over 25,500 people were detained, of whom just over 20,000 were detained in hospitals – the highest figures since NHS Digital began publishing them. Furthermore, 30% of these patients were detained in private hospitals, compared to just 17% a decade ago.

Dr Paul Lelliott, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: “It is concerning to see that more people are being detained under the Mental Health Act than in previous years, when there is a national commitment to reduce this number.

“To get to the bottom of this, we are launching an investigation into the reasons why detentions under the Mental Health Act in England continue to rise. We expect to publish our findings from this next year.”

One possible explanation, he noted, was that the same people were being detained repeatedly, leading to concerns about a lack of mental health provision in the community or about acute mental health services “operating ‘revolving door’ admissions”.

The NHS Digital report also showed that almost 23,000 people had been brought to hospital as ‘a place of safety’ under section 136 of the Act, an 18% increase since last year. However, this was connected to a 56% decrease in the number of patients being detained in police cells.

The CQC had warned recently that many mental health providers show no signs of progress in implementing the Act’s other requirements, including areas such as staff training and involving patients in planning their care.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the charity Sane, said that in some cases doctors were “being forced to use the Act in order to obtain an inpatient bed for treatment”.

“It is a scandal that you have to be sectioned in order to get treatment,” she added. “What we need is more rather than fewer beds, so that those who need sanctuary and healing can receive help without having to be deprived of their liberty.”

The government has promised an extra £1bn for mental health funding in this Parliament, but the Public Accounts Committee recently warned that these reforms did not have “sound foundations”.

In response to today’s figures, a DH spokesperson said: “People with mental illness need the best possible care and local areas are investing £693m more to make sure the right services are in place.

“Decisions about detention under the Mental Health Act are clinically led but the CQC will be looking into the rise in cases.”

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