Islington has highest use of mental health act, as shown by ‘shocking’ stats

The Whittington Hospital in North London. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The Whittington Hospital in North London. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Islington has more people treated under the mental health act than anywhere else in England, according to “shocking” new NHS stats.

The data sets detail how many people were subject to the act in each of the 195 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England.

The latest stats from August show Islington’s CCG saw 97.87 people per 100,000 impacted by the mental health act – three times the national average.

But this may have been skewed by assessments made at Whittington Hospital, which could include people from Barnet, Haringey and Westminster.

Alex Kennedy, head of campaigns at Rethink Mental Illness charity, told the Gazette: “What we do know is the number of people detained is much higher in urban areas where there is poverty and a lot of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

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“For all those reasons the numbers are shocking but not surprising – six of the top ten CCGs [for the mental health act being used] are in London.

“The numbers really are high, every day 230 people in Islington are potentially subject to the mental health act.

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“And it effects many more people it’s an experience that friends and families also have to go through.”

The act allows people to be detained, or “sectioned”, but also covers Community Treatment Orders, a legal provision under which a person accepts medication, therapy and other rehabilitative services while remaining in the community; “short term holding powers” and guardianship.

NHS Health England will publish a review into the use of the mental health act next month. Islington CCG hadn’t commented at the time of publication.

Emma Whitby, chief exec of Healthwatch Islington, an independent health and social care watchdog, told the Gazette: “Islington has the highest levels of serious mental illness in London.

“Community based preventative services are hugely important in reducing this because they help people at risk of crisis to look after their own mental health in a supportive, non-stigmatising environment.

Unfortunately, a lack of central government funding means that these services are having to be reduced locally.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want to ensure the Mental Health Act works better for patients and their families which is why we have commissioned a review.

“This will consider the reasons for rising rates of detention under the Act, how to reduce the disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnic groups detained and how to improve processes that are out of step with a modern mental health care system – and will report back in the coming months.”

The “per 100,000 people” estimate is based on weighted population data for each CCG released by the Office for National Statistcs for CCGs in mid-2017.

The national average for people becoming subject to the Mental Health Act is 36 per 100,000. But this may have been skewed by assessments made at Whittington Hospital, which could include people from Barnet, Haringey and Westminster.

Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s health and social care boss, said: “Islington has a significantly higher level of mental health need than the London or England average, including depression and severe mental illness.

“We use the Mental Health Act proportionately – only in the most serious circumstances and where it is appropriate.

“Decisions are always taken in the best interests of the person concerned, by a multi-agency panel of experts.

“Investment in mental health care in Islington has not been reduced in recent years, but the impact of the Government’s austerity drive, its disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit, the welfare cap and PIP disability benefit system will inevitably lead to more people reaching crisis point.

“We already have prevention services in place to offer early help to those who may be starting to become unwell, and are always looking for new and better methods of prevention and helping people in crisis.”

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