Community Treatment Orders are unproven and must be used only where necessary, says Alliance

7 March 2007

The Government must place clear limits on the use of community treatment orders (CTOs) for people with mental health problems following research showing no evidence they actually work, the Mental Health Alliance said today.

Commenting on the Government-funded report International experiences of using community treatment orders, Rowena Daw, vice chair of the 78-member coalition, said: "The Mental Health Bill proposed broad new powers of compulsion in the community. Yet the Government's own research now shows that these orders have at best mixed results.

"The research was carried out in countries where community treatment orders are only used for people whose illness involves a serious risk to themselves or others and where a level of close supervision is more justified. This may mean that the effectiveness of the Government’s proposed orders is even less likely than in the countries studied.

"The Government needs to respond to this research and put clear limits on who can be given a community treatment order. Only those people who would benefit should have their freedom restricted in this way and that's a very small group of people: the so-called ‘revolving door patients’. The House of Lords has already amended the Bill to place more sensible limits on when such orders are used. It is now clear why these limits are needed. With these limits we can do the important job of protecting patients and the public without the unnecessary use of compulsory powers.

"We agree with government that compulsory treatment in the community can help a small number of people in very specific situations, but the current plans go too far. They will not limit the use of CTOs to this small group of people and they will place unnecessary restrictions on people's daily lives.

"We call on the Government to use the evidence its own research has provided and to listen to the views of professionals, patients and families."

Commenting on the completion of the Bill’s progress through the House of Lords, Alliance chair Andy Bell added: "The House of Lords have made six significant changes to the Mental Health Bill. The Government itself has made some other changes in that time, too.

"We hope that the Government will now seek to end the controversy of the past nine years and create fair, workable and evidence-based legislation that is fit for the next 30 years."