Compulsory treatment using the Mental Health Act has reached its highest level in Scotland for 15 years. 

The Mental Welfare Commission collated the data and said the rise could be due to “increased distress among patients, as more people are being given compulsory, rather than voluntary, treatment”. It also references “pressure on services”.

Their report also makes plain that compulsory treatment is frequently given without proper authorisation.

There are three routes to compulsory treatment: emergency detention certificates; short term detention certificates and compulsory treatment orders.

Emergency detention certificates

The sharpest rise was in the use of emergency detention certificates, which was up by 12% on the previous year, and were used 2,414 times in the year. These certificates can be issued by any doctor and allow someone to be kept in hospital for up to 72 hours.

The use of emergency detention certificates has increased by 26% across Scotland in the last 10 years, with the most marked rises in Dumfries and Galloway and Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.

Short term detention certificates

Under current law, short term detention orders should only take place if recommended by a psychiatrist and a mental health officer (specialist social worker). These certificates were used 2,905 times in 2016-17, an increase of 5% on the previous year. The figures vary widely across health boards, but only 33% of emergency detention certificates in Greater Glasgow and Clyde were used with the consent of a mental health officer.

The use of short term detention certificates has increased by 34% in the last 10 years, with the most marked rises in Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board and Lothian Health Board.

Compulsory treatment orders

The number of compulsory treatment orders completed each year has increased by 22.9% (979 to 1203) over the 10 year period.

The national rate for compulsory treatment orders has been rising steadily over the past 10 years (from 18.9 to 22.3 per 100,000). The rate of increase is slower than for emergency detention certificates (EDCs) or short term detention certificates (STDCs). The proportion of compulsory treatment orders which are community based has increased steadily over the last 10 years.

The Mental Welfare Commission has a statutory duty to monitor and publish information on the use of the Mental Health Act.