Rise in mental health detentions shows ‘services are struggling
Data shows detentions under Mental Health Act rose nearly 10% in a year
Mental Health Act detentions
Detentions in NHS hospitals increased by almost 4,000.
Mental health campaigners have expressed concern that detentions under the Mental Health Act have risen by almost 10% in England in the past year.
A total of 25,117 patients were subject to the act – up 6.7% from 2014 – of whom 19,656 were detained in hospitals, according to figures released on Friday by the government’s Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
These people were detained a total of 58,399 times, an increase of 9.8% on 2013/14.
The mental health charity Mind said the figures suggested “people are not getting help for their mental health problems early enough, meaning they become more unwell and more likely to reach crisis point”.
“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,” Mind said in a statement.
Luciana Berger, Labour shadow secretary for mental health, also expressed alarm. “These latest figures show the growing and unsustainable pressure on our mental health services. It is very concerning that each year more people have become so ill they have had to be detained under the Mental Health Act.
“This comes after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) this week found no real improvements in the community mental health services that help keep people out of hospital. It is unacceptable that too many people are not getting the right care early enough.
“Whilst demand is going up, NHS professionals are being told to do more for less and the number of mental health nurses has plummeted. The Tories are taking mental health services backwards and vulnerable people are being let down."
Mind said the numbers were consistent with numerous reports that NHS mental health services were under huge pressure and “struggling to cope with the number of people in need of support”. Mind added that NHS mental health services had been underfunded for decades and had suffered cuts over recent years at a time of rising demand.
Of the detentions in hospitals, those in the NHS increased by 3,995 to reach 51,969, up 8.2% from the year before, while in the independent sector hospital detentions increased by 1,268, up nearly 25%, to 6,430.
Patients are assessed according to the Mental Health Act 1983, which defines how and when a person can be detained in hospital without their consent for assessment or treatment.
“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,” said the mental health charity. The latest figures show 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,” Mind said, and urged increased investment in mental health services.
Instances of short-term detention, in which a hospital was used as a “place of safety” under section 136 of the act, increased by 14%, up 2,400 to 19,400 compared with the previous year.
This year’s Mental Health Bulletin, which provides a picture of people who used adult secondary mental health and learning disability services, also published by the HSCIC on Friday, shows more than 1.85 million people were in contact with mental health and learning disability services at some point in the year – or 3,620 people per 100,000.
The figures also show that although the majority of people who were in contact with mental health and learning disability services were white, with 1.36 million people accounting for around 74% of this group, black people spent the most time in hospital in the year.
The figures show black and black British people had the highest rate of detentions, at 56.9 per 100 mental health patients who spent time in hospital. Asians and Asian British people were the second largest ethnic group, at 50 per 100 people, to be detained and spend time in hospital under the Mental Health Act.
The HSCIC report said: “These figures could be indicative of a greater need for mental health and learning disability services within these ethnic groups, or that these ethnic groups have more complicated needs once they are in contact with mental health and learning disability services.”
Geoff Heyes, the policy and campaigns manager for Mind, said: “We know that people from black groups are often poorly supported by mental healthcare services, meaning they are less likely to seek early support for a mental health problem.” He said the latest HSCIC data showed that, as a result, they were more likely to be detained and the police more likely to be involved when they were unwell.
This could be for a number of reasons, he said, including stigma, cultural barriers and discrimination. Mainstream mental health services often failed to understand or provide services that were accessible to non-white communities.
“In general, people from black and minority ethnic groups living in the UK are more likely to experience a poor outcome from treatment for a mental health problem and many lose trust in services,” he said, calling for mental healthcare that was culturally appropriate and able to engage people from marginalised groups.
Anna Bradley, chair of Healthwatch England, said the organisation had conducted a special inquiry into vulnerable patients who had been detained in mental health settings because other options were not available or were held longer than necessary because of difficulties in finding appropriate support in the community.
“We want to see adequate community and on-going support of people with mental health conditions to ensure that care is appropriate for people and graduated to fit their individual needs.
“This could avoid unnecessary detention and further distress for thousands of people,” she said. “This can have a devastating knock-on effect.”
Source: The Guardian