The Mental Health Act (MHA) allows for the detention of people with a mental health disorder for their own safety or that of others – but tragically, for some that detention does not lead to their safety.
Those deaths are recorded as a specific category in the “Coroners Statistics” published by the government, along with other ‘deaths in State Detention’.
As you’d expect, those statistics make bleak reading – but bleaker still is that those statistics reveal a dramatic rise in the number of deaths of people detained under the MHA in England and Wales since the Tories re-entered government.
The number has more than tripled since 2011:
More shocking still is that numbers were fairly flat for the first four of the six years covered by the statistics – then climbed rapidly over the last two years recorded:
According to Full Fact, the majority of detentions under the MHA follow someone being admitted to hospital. An increased numbers of deaths could, in part, be related to an increased number of detentions – and detentions have risen, but not by anything like the death toll.
MHA detentions increased by 47% over the ten-year period from 2005/6:
The vast majority of that growth – 24% just since 2012 – has been under the Tories, but a 47% increase in detentions does not explain the tripling of deaths – so the rate of deaths per thousand admissions has also increased: if you are detained under the MHA, there is a greater likelihood that you will die in detention.
It’s clear from the statistics that England and Wales have not only seen a serious increase in the number of people detained, but also serious increase in the percentage of those people detained who die in detention.
An examination of the impact of Tory government on mental health care within the NHS reveals at least seven likely contributing factors:
- 5,162 overnight mental health beds have closed since June 2010, cutting 1.8million bed spaces per year from the NHS’s mental health services
- There are 5,240 fewer Mental Health Nurses employed in the NHS today than there were in May 2010. The CQC judges that the number of mental health nurses has declined by 12% since 2010
- The percentage and number of mental health patients on the care programme approach who were followed up within seven days of discharge from psychiatric care have fallen to their lowest annual levels since 2010
- Detentions under the Mental Health Act have risen by 24% since 2012, evidence that only the most immediate and intensive needs are admitted to the mental health ward
- The overall mortality rate for patients with a mental health condition has grown since 2010
- Mental Health bed occupancy regularly exceeds the 85% recommended level, and anecdotal evidence has been gather that on occasion there are no beds available (sources here, here and here).
- “Out of area” placements for mental health patients have grown by a half in two years. BMA say this requires a 4-6-hour journey, placing additional stresses on both patients and families and removing patients from their support networks
The NHS is collapsing because of reduced funding increases and huge cuts in social care. The Tories have paid lip service to ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health care – at the same time as imposing the cuts outlined above.
Yet still Jeremy Hunt chose to boast about the Tories’ ‘achievements’ in both the NHS and mental health – triggering serious public humiliations from an NHS doctor, various Twitter users and actor Ralf Little.
Cuts in police resources – some of those detained under the MHA are held by police – and the inability of cut and over-stretched social services to manage people in the community – contribute to a desperately bad situation.
The statistics above are desperately bad, but the human cost they represent is a tragedy and a scandal – and they make a travesty of the Tories’ claims of ‘esteem’ and the Health Secretary’s ill-advised attempts to boast.
The Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice have been contacted for comment.
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