The Mental Health Act 1983 determines how and when a person can be detained in hospital without their consent for assessment or treatment. Mental Health campaigners have expressed concern that detentions under the Mental Health Act have risen by almost 10% in England in the past year. The Government’s Health and Social Care Information Centre released figures last week which found a total of 25,117 patients were subject to the act, which is an increase of 6.7% from 2014 where 19,656 patients were detained in hospitals.
This comes after the Care Quality Commission recently found no real improvements in the community health services that aim to help people and keep them out of hospital. They found it wholly unacceptable that people were not having access to the right treatment at an early stage. They said:
“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.”
The Mental Health Charity Mind have said that the statistics are consistent with numerous reports that NHS mental health services are under huge pressure and struggling to cope and added that the NHS mental health services have been underfunded for decades and suffered cuts over recent years at a time of rising demand. Private beds are being used to detain patients under the act, which likely means that there are not enough beds readily available for those who voluntarily admit themselves. They rightly demand an increase in funds to the mental health services. If cuts increase and continue, mental health patients will only continue to suffer and deteriorate as a result.
The figures are extremely worrying, as the amount of patients detained under the act should be decreasing not increasing. The figures appear to suggest that patients are not receiving the care and support they need from the system at an early stage and as a result become more and more ill. To be detained under the mental health act is very serious and should only be done in extreme circumstances and when all other avenues have been exhausted so as to relieve the pressure on mental health services. However the issue may be that it is difficult to assess how ill a person is and as a precautionary measure they may be admitted for their own safety and others.
This year’s Mental Health Bulletin shows that more than 1.85 million people were in contact with the mental health and learning disability services at some point in the year. The figures also show that 1.36 million of people who were in contact with mental health and learning disability services were white, with black minority groups having the highest rate of detentions and Asian minority groups being the second largest ethnic group. The question remains as to whether there is a greater need for mental health services within ethnic groups. 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.”
There is a serious question of whether ethnic minority groups are supported well enough. Are they scared of the stigma attached to mental health issues or are they misunderstood or not provided with the right services? There is evidently an issue here. What is clear, is that accessible help is needed for those who truly need it at an early stage before they are detained under the act, which causes much more distress to the patient concerned and their loved ones in the long-term.