hscicThe number of people being detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA) has risen by 4% in the past year to more than 54,000, according to figures from the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Detentions under the MHA in NHS hospitals were up by 4% to 50,400 in the year to March 31, 2013, while detentions in private hospitals rose by 17% to 4,300.

Detentions on admission to NHS and independent hospitals also increased by 4% overall.

The HSCIC’s report, Inpatients formally detained in hospitals under the Mental Health Act 1983, and patients subject to supervised community treatment, annual figures, England 2012/13, also found that the number of people subject to community treatment orders (CTOs) climbed by 10% to 5,200.

As well as the overall increase in the use of CTOs – where patients detained in hospital for treatment under Section 3 of the MHA are discharged from detention to continue their treatment in the community – there was also a 9% rise in the number of recalls to 2,300. Additionally, of the 3,700 CTOs to end during 2012/13, 41% ended by revocation rather than discharge, compared with 46% in the previous year.

Elsewhere in the report, police stations were used for one in three known Place of Safety Orders – which involve the individual being taken to a police station for their own safety or that of others – accounting for an estimated 7,800 of the total 22,100.

While the police figures are estimates and released by the HSCIC for only the second year, they show a fall of about 10% on the 2011/12 estimate. For the majority of the remaining Place of Safety Orders individuals were taken to hospitals in 14,100 instances, a 6% fall on the previous year. 

Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of Turning Point and chair of the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing said: “Whilst it is positive that the number of people detained in a police station as a Place of Safety under the mental health act has fallen since last year we still need to address the fact that police stations were used for one in three known Place of Safety Orders.  This is not acceptable.

“As detailed in the Mental Health and Policing Commission’s report, published earlier this year, the very term a place of safety is a problematic one.  In our report the Commission called for fewer but much better-resourced, clinically-led centres with staff who are highly trained and can respond to the police in emergencies. We would not expect someone in a physical health crisis to be taken to a police station for their own safety; if we want true parity of esteem between mental and physical health we need to address this head on.”