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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 18:45 GMT
Warning over mental health care failings
Hospital corridor
There has been an increase in voluntary detention
The number of men compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Act rose by 40% over the last decade, statistics show.

The government figures also show the number of women detained rose by 19% between 1991 and 2002.

Rethink, formerly the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, said the rise was due to people receiving inadequate care early on in their illness, meaning they become so ill they require compulsory admission to hospital.

These shocking figures are a wake-up call to us all

Paul Corry, Rethink
The figures come following the publication of a Draft Mental Health Bill which would allow people with severe personality disorders to be detained indefinitely, even if they have committed no crime.

Campaigners, including Rethink, have criticised the plans.

And they say the Department of Health's figures, which cover England, would open up new avenues allowing compulsory detention, increasing numbers even further.

The statistics also show that the number of people voluntarily detained in hospital has also rose, from 19,900 in 2000/2001 to 20,500 in 2001/2002.

'Turned away'

Rethink said the numbers sectioned had risen because of "defensive reactions" from professionals criticised by the government and media after high profile homicide cases.

Paul Corry, spokesman for the organisation, said: "These shocking figures are a wake-up call to us all.

"The government's ambitious programme of investment in improving mental health services must be accelerated.

"We know that one in three people are turned away from services when they seek help.

"People are often left to become so ill that they find themselves under a compulsory detention order when early intervention could have prevented this traumatic experience."

But a spokesman for the Department of Health said the increases were due to "better recording of orders and a more appropriate use of hospitals by the criminal justice system."


Admissions under Part 2 of the Act, which allow patients to be compulsorily detained for 28 days for psychiatric assessment, made up the bulk of admissions in 2001 to2002.

The government's draft Mental Health Bill is likely to significantly increase the use of compulsory powers

Paul Farmer, Mental Health Alliance
There was a rise over the previous decade of 40% in the number of men sectioned, from 8,500 in 1991 -1992 to 11,900 in 2000 - 2001.

The number of women sectioned rose from 9,600 to 11,400, a rise of almost 19%, over the same period.

The figures show that, at 31 March 2002, there were 13,500 patients detained in hospitals, with 1,200 in high security psychiatric hospitals, 10,400 in other NHS facilities and 1,900 in private mental nursing homes.

The number of Place of Safety Orders, which allow police powers to remove patients to a place of safety for assessment for up to 72 hours increased by 16% from 2000 - 2001 to 3,400 in 2001 - 2002.

Paul Farmer, chair of the Mental Health Alliance chair, said: "The rising trend in compulsion over the last 10 years shows that mental health services are driven by fear.

"A few tragic cases fuelled by often sensationalist media reporting have created the false impression in the public's mind that mental health and violence are always linked.

"Government plans to replace the existing Mental Health Act could provide the opportunity for a sea-change, but only if the criteria for detention are tightened up and rights to quality care when requested are improved."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "There would be no need to have people detained against their will if the conditions in which they received voluntary treatment were made tolerable and humane.

"So dreadful are the conditions on many wards that patients say, and psychiatrists confirm, that the only way they will stay in hospital is if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act."

'Alarm bells'

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox added: "These statistics reconfirm our view that sectioning people is being used as an easy option in the absence of proper mental health legislation.

"These statistics should ring alarm bells about the danger of locking people up instead of giving then treatment at an early stage."

Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat health spokseman, said: "Compulsory hospitalisation should be a last resort. But because of lack of funding for earlier intervention it becomes the first step."

See also:

11 Nov 02 | Politics
20 Aug 02 | Health
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