Research shows compulsion in the community is a gamble - says Mental Health Alliance

20 September 2005

The use of compulsion outside hospital should be kept to a minimum and regulated very tightly, the Mental Health Alliance said today.

Responding to the publication of two major studies of the use of compulsion in the community, Alliance chairman Paul Farmer said: "The Government’s plans to introduce compulsion in the community within the new Mental Health Bill have been controversial from the start.

"The two new studies show how little we know about what happens when compulsion is brought outside hospital. The King’s Fund study shows that the number of people under compulsion in the community tends to rise year-on-year. It estimates the number of people on ‘non-resident orders’ (NROs) will greatly exceed government expectations.

"The Cochrane study, meanwhile, shows that compulsion in the community does not work. It finds no evidence that compulsion in the community has reduced hospital admissions or improved either quality of life or satisfaction with care.

"We hope the Government will take note of both these studies and think further about the Bill. Compulsory community treatment is a gamble. It can only be safely introduced under very narrow conditions for a very small group of people with strict limitations.

"The next Mental Health Bill is likely to be in operation for decades. If the use of NROs is not strictly limited and monitored, we are at risk of implementing an unproven system which could spiral out of control. The costs of that, to services, to individuals, to families and to taxpayers could be considerable."

Notes to Editors