The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Human rights violation: Mental health patients regularly sectioned without cause

A rise in the number of mentally ill patients who are detained has prompted a review of the current administration system, reports the BBC.

Despite changes to mental health laws in 2007, the number of patients who are detained has increased significantly. The reform of legislation governing the sectioning of mental health patients six years ago was passed with the intent of easing the pressure and demand on psychiatric units. This was made possible by the establishment of Community Treatment Orders which allow those who are capable to receive outpatient treatment in hospitals whilst continuing to live in their local communities as an alternative to being detained.

Last year, the number of patients being held in psychiatric units had risen to 44,894. Concern has arisen as to whether the safeguards that were put in place to protect patients who lacked capacity were being rightly observed given this increase.

Yet, such unnecessary detentions would be a serious infringement on an individual's rights. A report into the matter was therefore ordered and has been completed by the Department of Health. They also investigated whether or not the safeguards, including those of offering a right of challenge and the right to regularly have their depravation of liberty reviewed, were being adhered to.

Astonishingly, members of parliament found that there was no uniformity in the use of these safeguards which was 'profoundly depressing'.

Commenting on the findings, charity worker Paul Jenkins from Rethink, said: "It's absolutely shocking that people are being sectioned unnecessarily, just so they can get access to the treatment they are entitled to. Being sectioned, although sometimes necessary, can be extremely distressing and should only be used as a last resort."

He continued to assert the fundamental importance of keeping a level of trust with the patient, something the review findings show to have been consistently undermined.

A further review of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards has been called for by the Government, as well as the establishment of a plan of action to improve the treatment of mental health patients.