The NHS has stoked concerns that mental health care remains coercive for thousands of patients. 

The health service has refused to disclose how frequently shock therapy is used to treat people detained in hospital under the mental health act, unless £21,000 is paid in data charges.

“We need to support preventative services and embrace alternatives to outdated crisis care responses. While transformation takes place, advocates must be proactively made available to patients.”

NHS Digital used to make the information publicly available but this stopped in 2014. In 2013/2014 shock therapy, also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT, was carried out 25,107 times on 1,904 patients.

This represented a rise of over 30 percent on the previous year, when it was carried out 14,496 times on 1,447 patients.

Mental Health Today has been pursuing current data under freedom of information law since November but this has been refused by the NHS twice over the last month.

MHT has seen its requests for data on the frequency with which patients are referred to advocates and information on data on uses of invasive surgery rejected also.

This information will only be shared by the NHS’s Data Access Request Service if £3000 is paid in application fees, £4500 in data extract fees, and £13,500 in dissemination fees.

Access to advocacy must be better supported

Mental Health Today also reveals today it has established there is overwhelming support among mental health professionals and the public for two ‘relative rights’ issues to be confronted in the independent mental health act review the government has commissioned this year.

Mental health professionals and the public agree (95%) that the law needs to change to require individuals sectioned under the mental health to be signposted to independent legal advocates, new polling for Mental Health Today has established.

A second survey has found that there is strong backing (85%) for relatives to be proactively connected to advocates too.

Readers are being asked throughout 2018 for their views on how the Mental Health Act should be redrawn to reflect present days attitudes towards what good mental health care looks like.

The surveys form part of Mental Health Today’s In Our Right Mind campaign, which is pushing, throughout 2018, for new rights to be enshrined in the new Mental Health Act being drafted this year.

An independent team appointed by the government to review the current overarching mental health legislation – the 1983 Mental Health Act –  are mandated to deliver recommendations to the government in late 2018 for replacement legislation.

Under current law, individuals who are sectioned have a right to speak to an indepedent legal mental health care expert (advocate) but there is no requirement put upon the police or mental health care professional to provide it.

A clinical code suggest advocates should be made available to patients but in practice it often doesn’t happen.


“If NHS executives stand by the use of ECT in modern mental health care they should make the data on its frequency publicly available this year, while the mental health act is being reviewed,” said Mental Health Today co-editor Barney Cullum.

“Earlier this month we learned from the Care Quality Commission regulator that compulsory detention applications have rised by 40 percent in the last decade.”

“We need to support preventative services and embrace alternatives to outdated crisis care responses.”

“While transformation takes place, advocates must be proactively made available to patients.”

Solicitor-advocate and author Malcolm Johnson said: “The Mental Health Act sets out the hospital's duty to provide information about independent mental health advocates but the process is more re-active than pro-active.”

“The Mental Health Act and its Code should be amended, so that instead of mere information being given as a starting point, the patient is given a directory of advocates and told that they have the right to instruct one of these,” added Mr Johnson, author of 'An advocates guide to complaints'.

Mental Health Today’s In Our Right Mind campaign is backed by crowdfunding and supporters are invited to make a small contribution or share their experiences with the website.

MHT is working with The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to challenge the NHS's position under Freedom of Information law.

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