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Worrying impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the deaths of people treated under the Mental Health Act

By Lauren Cooper a medical negligence solicitor at Irwin Mitchell 

It is well recognised that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic goes far beyond what could have been expected back in March 2020. In particular, many people have struggled with their mental health throughout the pandemic with feelings of loneliness, anxiety and financial worries being magnified.

Increase in Deaths

It is therefore worrying to see the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) recent findings which suggest there has been a 79 per cent increase in the number of deaths of people being treated under the Mental Health Act in England during the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the CQC, 490 people died while detained under the Act from March 2020 to March 2021, with 324 of them being for non-covid reasons. The BBC reports that between 2012 and 2019, an average of 273 people died per year either while being detained in hospital or being supervised in the community in England while subject to the Mental Health Act.

Staff Shortages

Staff shortages within the NHS have been a real issue since well before the pandemic and sadly, the impact of this can lead to tragic outcomes. 

In my view, it is crucial that there is further urgent investment into mental health services across the country to improve the standard of care being provided to those who are treated under the Mental Health Act. 

Staff need to be supported

It is so important that these services are adequately supported and staffed, without placing the additional burden on existing doctors and nurses. The BBC found that in one case, a nurse had to work a double shift because no cover was available. The strain on our NHS is increasing by the day and cannot continue if patient safety is to be improved.      

For those who have lost loved ones in these circumstances, nothing can ever make up for the loss that they have suffered. We can only hope that further investment into mental health services is forthcoming to prevent the number of deaths continuing to rise.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting people and their families affected by healthcare issues at our dedicated medical negligence section.

The number of deaths of people being treated under the Mental Health Act in England rose during the coronavirus pandemic, estimates suggest.

The Care Quality Commission's (CQC) findings come amid concerns over staff shortages in psychiatric units.”