Fewer beds but more people detained

The number of hospital beds available for mental illness patients have been cut by the NHS at the same time as more people have been compulsorily detained in the facilities. Researchers from Warwick University, the University of London and Newcastle University found this direct correlation to have emerged over the last 21 years.

Their work is on published on the website of the British Medical Journal.

The authors say: "The bed mix needs to be examined more closely and the rate and consequences of bed closures may need to be considered more carefully."

Professor Peter Kinderman from the University of Liverpool, who is Chair of the Society's Division of Clinical Psychology says:

"Any involuntary detention in mental health is hugely regrettable, and in some senses represents a failure of our ability properly to care for vulnerable people. So any increase in the rates of involuntary detention is clearly an indication of serious problems. And it is worrying that there appears to be a possible link between a reduction in bed numbers and involuntary detention.
However, we have to be careful.

"There remain many very good reasons to close large psychiatric facilities, and most professionals agree that high-quality community care is preferable. It's also important to note that this apparent correlation might not speak to a causal relationship - we already know that the numbers of beds in psychiatric facilities have been falling year-on-year, and we also know that there has been an increase in the number of people detained under the Mental Health Act. So it's pretty much inevitable that there'll be a correlation - these findings tell us what we already knew, albeit in a starker form.

"If, however, these findings speak to a failure of community-based approaches properly to care for people with mental health problems - leaving them vulnerable to compulsory care, then we need urgently to address mental health care in the UK.

"The British Psychological Society has always called for sustained investment in high-quality mental health services, and particularly in services that are aimed at preventing mental health problems developing in the first place or escalating. Services should be multidisciplinary and incorporate an evidence-based psychological perspective. Clearly, if people are continuing to be admitted to mental health services against their will, more still needs to be done."