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Concern over mental health services

The number of patients sectioned between 1996 and 2006 rose by 20%, despite the number of beds on NHS mental health wards falling, a report has found.

By 2006, sectioned patients were only five times more likely to be in an NHS facility than a private one, compared with 15 times more likely in 1996.

Lead author of the report, psychiatrist Patrick Keown, said the increase in drink and drug admissions up to 2006 changed the environment on inpatient psychiatric wards.

Professor Scott Weich, from the University of Warwick, wrote in an accompanying article in the British Medical Journal: “The recent national review of inpatient services by the Healthcare Commission, in which 59% of trusts were rated as fair or weak, does little to allay concerns about lack of care and planning and impoverished physical environments.”

The chief executive of mental health charity SANE, Marjorie Wallace, said: “It is ironic that, having drastically reduced the number of psychiatric beds in the NHS, the government now has to rely on the private sector to accommodate the dramatic increase in the number of people detained involuntarily.

“Improvements in community care are supposed to reduce the need for compulsory admission when someone reaches crisis point – yet precisely the opposite appears to have happened. We urgently need to find out why this is the case.”

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