Sharp rise in Mental Health Act detainments shows need for urgent investment

Detentions under the Mental Health Act rose by almost 10% in 2014-15 compared to the previous year, according to statistics published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) today (23 October).

The sharp overall rise of 10% compared to an increase of 5.5% during 2013-14 and of 3.7% during 2012-13. In NHS hospitals alone, detentions increased by 8.2% to almost 52,000.

In independent sector hospitals, this grew to a whopping 24.6%, but just to 6,430 detentions instead.

However Paul Farmer, chief executive of charity Mind and chair of the Mental Health Task Force, was quoted as saying the sharp rise in private sector detainment actually pointed to the lingering bed shortage crisis permeating the NHS at present.

“The bed crisis has been well-documented over recent months and today’s data shows a big increase in the use of private beds to treat people detained under the Act. If the NHS is having to use private beds to meet its statutory obligations, it is likely that there aren’t beds routinely available for people not detained under the Act.

“People with mental health problems deserve better. We need to see urgent and significant investment in mental health services to reverse the damage and start getting people the help they need, when they need it.”

The Act, established in 1983, defines how and when a person can be detained in hospital without consent for assessment or treatment.

Further analysis by the centre concluded that women who spent time in mental health hospitals were more likely to be detained than men – for every 100 female inpatients, almost 42 were detentions.

Also published by the HSCIC today, the Mental Health Bulletin 2014-15 showed that roughly one in 28 people were in contact with mental health and learning disability services at some point in the year, amounting to 1,850,000 people in total. This grew to one in five people when considering those aged 90 and over.

NHS Bury CCG saw the highest access rate to these services at 10,000 people per 100,000, while NHS South Gloucestershire CCG had the lowest, at just over 2,000.

Commenting on the statistics, Carl Money from the HSCIC said: “Together, these reports provide a rich picture, helping us understand how mental health and learning disabilities services are used in England and how the powers under the Mental Health Act are being used.

“With one in 28 people in England in contact with these services at some point over the year, it is clear that access to these services is widespread across England.”

But NHE has previously revealed that one-fifth of those sectioned under the Act do not have their rights explained to them, according to the CQC.

The regulator was concerned that people across England were being detained under the Act without their legal rights being discussed, without being fully assessed for their willingness and ability to consent to their treatment, and without always having easy access to appropriate independent advice.

And today, Farmer said the figures were concerning.

“Being detained under the Mental Health Act is very serious and is only done when someone is extremely unwell. Every effort should be made to engage people in their care and the Act should only be used as a last resort.

“We are therefore very concerned to see such a significant jump in the number of people being detained under the Act. It suggests that people are not getting help for their mental health problems early enough, meaning they become more unwell and more likely to reach crisis point.

“This is consistent with numerous reports that NHS mental health services are under huge pressure at the moment and are struggling to cope with the number of people in need of support. NHS mental health services have been underfunded for decades and have suffered cuts over recent years at a time of rising demand.”


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