Too Many Mentally Ill People Sent To Prison Instead Of Hospital, Says CQC

CQC Report Raises Concerns Over Care For People With Mental Health Issues


A worrying number of mentally ill people are ending up in prison after being turned away from hospitals, according to a new report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The watchdog warned that a range of issues - from wards being too full or short-staffed, to the patient being too young or drunk - were preventing many people with mental health issues from receiving the care they need.

As a result, they often end up in prison cells, with almost 22,000 people detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act between 2012 and 2013. 

Mental health charity Mind says cells are inappropriate in these circumstances, as they lead to people feeling like they are being punished for their illness, while home secretary Theresa May described the situation as "unacceptable".

The Mental Health Act states that those who are detained must be interviewed by either a mental health professional or a registered doctor to ensure they get the necessary care.

However, it would appear this often does not happen; the CQC claimed 7,761 cases ended up in a cell, instead of a safe room at A&E, a children's hospital or a mental health trust.

Not only is this an issue for those affected, but it is also wasting police time, Mrs May pointed out. 
"We must never accept a situation when a person in crisis is denied care because a health-based place of safety is full or unstaffed, or just because the person is intoxicated," she stressed.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals (mental health) at the CQC, warned the findings of the report are simply not good enough.

"Imagine if people who had had a heart attack or stroke, were regularly turned away from an A&E department due to a lack of staff or beds," he commented.

Expert Opinion
These figures are simply unacceptable and there is absolutely no excuse for those with a mental health illness being treated as criminals when they need specialist help.

“This report must prompt urgent action from the Government in improving resource and facilities in specialist mental health facilities to ensure those affected can receive the necessary care they need.

“The safety of mental health patients is just as important as those with a physical illness or injury and investment and quality of care available to those in need must reflect this.”
Tom Fletcher, Associate