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More people are being detained under the Mental Health Act

Jump in figures suggests people are helped too late

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 23 October 2015

Detentions under the Mental Health Act have soared since last year, according to new figures published today. 

The data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows that detentions under the Act rose by 9.8% (5,220) to 58,400 in 2014/15 compared to the previous year, according to official statistics published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The 9.8% rise during 2014/15 compares to a 5.5% rise during 2013/14 and a 3.7% rise during 2012/13.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, described the figures as “concerning”.

“Being detained under the Mental Health Act is very serious and is only done when someone is extremely unwell. Everyone 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,” he said.

He added: “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.”

Mr Farmer, also raised concerns about the “bed crisis” and the increased use of private beds.

“We are also concerned that, in some parts of the country, anyone trying to voluntarily admit themselves to hospital is unlikely to get a bed. The beds 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 Mental Health 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.”

Today's report Inpatients formally detained in hospitals under the Mental Health Act 1983, and patients subject to supervised community treatment, England 2014/15 shows that during 2014/15:

  • Detentions in NHS hospitals increased by 4,000 (8.2%) from the year before to reach 51,970 and in independent sector hospitals by 1,270 (24.6%) to 6,430.
  • The instances where section 136 of the Act was used to make a short-term detention to a hospital as a “place of safety” increased by 2,400 (or 14.1%) to 19,400, compared to the year before.

The Mental Health Bulletin 2014/15 is also published by the HSCIC today. This provides a comprehensive picture of people who used adult secondary mental health and learning disability services, including people who spent time in hospital. The bulletin shows that approximately one person in 28 accessed mental health and learning disability services, in England.

Key findings included:

  • 1,850,000 people were in contact with mental health and learning disability services at some point in the year. This means that 3,620 people per 100,000 of the population in England accessed mental health and learning disability services (approximately one person in 28).
  • 5.7% (103,840) of people in contact with mental health and learning disability services spent time in hospital during 2014/15. This is a decrease compared to 2013/14, when 6.0% (105,270) of people in contact with mental health services spent time in hospital and is a continuation of the trend seen in earlier years.
  • One in five people aged 90 and over (93,860 people out of 470,410) accessed mental health and learning disability services.

The Bulletin also provides complementary analysis of uses of the Mental Health Act. Findings included:

  • Women who spend time in mental health hospitals were more likely to be detained than men. For every 100 female inpatients, there were 41.9 detentions, compared to 38.5 among male inpatients.
  • People from the Black or Black British ethnic group were more likely than other ethnic groups to be detained, with 56.9 detentions per 100 inpatients.

Responsible Statistician, 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."

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