Publication date: 29 Jul, 2021
The report also shows a drop in safeguards when people were detained. A mental health officer should be involved when a person undergoes emergency detention, and while that safeguard had been reducing pre-pandemic, for the first time, the percentage of emergency detentions without a mental health officer’s consent dropped below 50%.
The report also records numbers of detained patients who died during this period compared to previous years, and whether there were any deaths linked to Covid-19.
The Commission found a rise in deaths that we were notified of – 147 people died while detained for treatment compared to an average of 110 people over the previous five years. Of the 147 deaths, 114 (77.6%) were non-Covid-19 related, and 19 deaths were due to Covid-19. The increase in numbers reported may also be due to improvements in the notification system because of the Commission’s current work on improving processes that follow any deaths of people who are subject to detention.
The report compares data from 1 March 2020 to 28 February 2021 with averages over the previous five years, and gives information at national and health board level.
Dr Arun Chopra, medical director, Mental Welfare Commission, said:
“We do not know the reasons for the increased rise in people being detained under the law for treatment, but it is a concern. There is small but clear increased rise in the use of the Act this year that may be related to the pandemic.
“In checking for a potential link with the pandemic, we looked at whether there were more people detained in an emergency last year who did not have a history of detention in the past, but we found that the proportion of people who had or did not have previous episodes were the same last year, as in previous years.
“We can say that pandemic exacerbated existing problems with the law. We are some years away from any new legislation that may follow recommendations from the Independent review into Scottish Mental Health Law. In the meantime, best practice is not being realised and we will continue to raise our concerns over the lack of mental health officer consent to detentions.
“We make recommendations to health and social care partnerships on this issue, and also to the Scottish Government, asking government to take account of this report in its review of the mental health officer workforce.
“Further work is underway in the Commission specifically on deaths of people who have been detained for mental health care and treatment, and this will report next year.
“We recognise that while this report presents data at a population level, every incident relates to a person and those important to them.”
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