By Kim Moore, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health

The publication of statistics for Mental Health Act (MHA) detentions yesterday has highlighted a ‘dramatic’ increase in mental health detentions, but should we really be surprised that over the past 10 years this has increased by 47%?

If we consider the significant differences in mental health services in 2006 to provision today, there are a number of complex changes to service provisions that would contribute or account for such an increase. Progressive reduction in inpatient services coupled with historical and continued underfunding of mental health services must play a significant role.  Dramatic growth of people wanting and needing mental health services combined with services struggling to deliver this support in their current over stretched forms could mean additional waiting times between referral and treatment contributing to increased severity of presentations.

Bed shortage and staffing restraints alongside increasing demands for service provision have previously been identified as key contributing factors affecting MHA admissions (MIND, 2014). Despite promises of additional mental health funding to address these mental health issues, continued economic constraints and funding cuts all contribute to the increased use of MHA detentions for assessment and treatment.  It could even be argued lack of access to crisis and home treatment services that support people to remain in their community for as long as possible, could inversely create a situation where Mental Health Act detentions are the last remaining ‘safe’ option.

While the numbers seem frightening, the Care Quality Commission ‘State of Care’ report acknowledge not only areas for improvement, there is recognition of good practice for services that not only meet but exceed expected standards for Mental Health Act admissions.  While it is right that we question why there are increases in the use of the Mental Health Act to enable not only assessment but treatment.  Given these influences, it can only be hoped that a balanced investigation of the mental health act statistics can be achieved.

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