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Understanding the increasing rate of involuntary admissions in NHS Mental Health Care

3 July 2012

The NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) programme are funding a study focusing on understanding the increasing rate of involuntary admissions in NHS Mental Health Care.

Admissions to hospital under the Mental Health Act rose by 64 per cent between 1998 and 2008, despite dramatic improvements in the quality of community-based services.  In 2009/10 more than 1.25 million people accessed mental health services in England, and 42,479 were detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act.  This is a source of concern to both service users and carers.  It is also an important issue for the NHS because in-patient care is very expensive.

The research team, led by Professor Scott Weich of the University of Warwick, will use a multilevel modelling method to analyse existing NHS datasets.  Previous research examined national data for England as a whole, but this study will explore local variations in rates of involuntary admissions to identify possible explanations for increased rates across the country as a whole.

Researchers will also examine whether the most deprived communities, which are also the areas with the highest minority ethnic populations, have the highest rates of involuntary admissions. They will also examine associations between involuntary admission and factors such as commissioner investment in mental health services and the availability of NHS mental illness beds.

The study will look for differences in rates between individual patients, Primary Care Trusts, Trusts and hospitals (including private hospitals), and regions of England. It will also explore the effects of Community Treatment Orders, which were introduced in 2008.

The Mental Health Foundation and the NHS Confederation are partners in this research, and will ensure that the views of mental health service users and managers contribute the study and to the interpretation of its findings.

Describing the project, Professor Weich said: “Research has already been undertaken using national data for England as a whole, but this does not tell the whole story.  We are interested in determining just local variations and their causes.  Our results will also help commissioners and managers to better predict the likely impacts of changes in service provision.”

Further projects will be funded by the HS&DR programme in this area from the Innovations in Secondary Mental Health Services call.

View the project page


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The NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme is managed by the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC). NETSCC is part of the University of Southampton funded by the NIHR, with specific contributions from the CSO in Scotland and NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

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