A controversial method of treating patients with mental health issues within the community has been criticised by one of its strongest supporters.
Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) are popularly known as ‘psychiatric asbos’ and give doctors a legal authority over their patients. Doctors are able to impose certain conditions on their patients with a CTO including what drugs they take, where they live and how much alcohol they are allowed to consume after they are released from hospital. If patients were to break any of these conditions they would be recalled immediately and sectioned to a psychiatric unit.
The CTOs were introduced five years ago following a string of high profile incidents involving patients with mental health problems attacking the general public. Now, CTOs have been proven to make no difference at all. Not only this, but the psychiatrist who originally championed CTOs (Professor Burns) is calling for their immediate suspension.
Professor Burns led one of the UK’s biggest trials of CTOs to measure their effectiveness. A study was carried out involving two separate groups of mentally ill patients, the first group of 166 people were under CTOs and the second group of 167 people had been placed on section 17 leave (which is usually a short-term probationary period that lasts a matter of days).
The results of the study revealed that within both groups 36% of patients were readmitted to hospital within a year. No significant differences were found between the groups in terms of the frequency or duration of their hospital stays. Both sets were also said to be incredibly similar in both their medical and social outcomes.
Professor Burns has said of the study, “We were all a bit stunned by the result, but it was very clear data and we got a crystal clear result. So I’ve had to change my mind. I think sadly – because I’ve supported them for 20-odd years – the evidence is staring us in the face that CTOs don’t work.”
NHS figures have shown that the number of people placed on these CTOs has been rising steadily since they were introduced. The original aim of the CTO was to reduce the amount of readmissions of patients by compelling them to take their medication.
A spokesman from the Department of Health has said they welcome the results of Burns’ report, saying they will consider the implications carefully.
Dealing with a mental health issue can be isolating. If you think you, or someone you know, could benefit from speaking to a counsellor, please see our Mental Health page.
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