Compulsory treatment orders for mental illness need reviewing

Community treatment orders may not benefit psychiatric patients but involve significant periods of compulsory treatment.

(Medical Xpress)—Discharging mental health patients on community treatment orders after they have been involuntarily hospitalised may require them to be on long periods of compulsory treatment without any benefit for the patient, a new study has found.

Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) have been controversial since their introduction in the UK in 2008. An Oxford University study has now found they do not alter the likelihood of being hospitalised again, compared with an older and less restrictive type of supervised discharge called Section 17 leave.

'This is the largest of CTOs, and we did not find any evidence that they achieve their intended purpose of reducing in so-called "revolving door" patients with a diagnosis of ,' says Professor Tom Burns of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who led the study.

He says: 'The evidence is now strong that the use of CTOs does not confer early patient benefits despite substantial curtailment of individual freedoms. Their current high usage should be urgently reviewed.'

The findings are published in the medical journal The Lancet.

CTOs were introduced for that are often repeatedly involuntarily hospitalised, leading to the idea of 'revolving door syndrome'. This group of patients are likely to have diagnoses of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, are often men, lead unstable lives, and experience and unemployment.

The measure was intended to address growing rates of involuntary due to in the UK. CTOs allow clinicians and mental health practitioners to monitor a patient's condition when leaving hospital after an involuntary admission, with the aim of providing a period of stability when relapse is considered likely.

Currently, around 4,000 people annually are made subject to a CTO in the UK, with perhaps 10,000 people on a CTO at any point.

Similar legislation has also been introduced in the USA, Australasia, some parts of Canada, and several other European countries.

However, several organisations have expressed concerns that CTOs are an unacceptable infringement on patients' civil liberties, as they allow specific conditions to be imposed on the patient, and that there is insufficient evidence to show that they are effective.

CTOs can include requirements that the patient takes certain medication, attends regular assessments, or lives in a certain place. If a patient breaks any of these conditions, the responsible clinician has the ability to recall them to hospital for up to 72 hours without formally readmitting them.

This is unlike the older provision of Section 17 leave, a period of leave from a hospital's inpatient unit which, if it goes well, is followed by discharge and voluntary treatment.

The OCTET study looked at whether 166 patients on CTOs experienced fewer hospital admissions compared with 167 patients released under Section 17 leave.

The Oxford University researchers found that the number of patients readmitted to hospital over 12 months did not differ between the groups. Just over a third (36%) of patients in each group were readmitted at some point.

Nor were there any significant differences in the time to readmission, or the number or duration of hospital admissions. The use of CTOs was not found to affect any of the patients' clinical or social outcomes.

But there was a great difference in the length of compulsory supervision of patients. Although the patients received equivalent levels of clinical contact, the patients on CTOs received compulsory treatment for an average of around 6 months. Those in the Section 17 group received compulsory treatment for an average of just over a week.

Professor Sonia Johnson of University College London, who was not involved in the study, comments in the Lancet: 'A strong respect for civil liberties is imperative for professionals entrusted with coercive powers, and arguments that CTOs infringe human rights seem persuasive if benefits cannot be shown.'

More information: www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)60107-5/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Emergency room redux for many patients after hospitalization

Jan 22, 2013

Following a hospitalization, patients face many challenges as they transition home. A new study of this vulnerable period published by Yale School of Medicine researchers in JAMA found that a substantial number of patien ...

Recommended for you

Offenders turn to mental health services 

1 hour ago

Adult criminal offenders in Western Australian are eight times more likely than non-offenders to use community-based mental health services in the year before their first sentence, a UWA study has found.

Deliberation is staunchest ally of selfishness

1 hour ago

(Medical Xpress)—Over the last two years, Yale psychologist David Rand and colleagues have investigated what makes people willing to help each other. Their latest research shows that while initial reactions ...

Touch influences how infants learn language

3 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Tickling a baby's toes may be cute but it's also possible that those touches could help babies learn the words in their language. Research from Purdue University shows that a caregiver's ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Cjm1
not rated yet Mar 27, 2013
As far as research goes, this doesn't appear to be a stellar design. We already know that about 30% of people who present with psychosis cannot gain relief with current treatments. Medication and therapy don't keep them stable, so about 30% will be rehospitalized no matter what you do. Now, for the 70% of people who benefit from treatment, does a week of followup work better or worse than 6 months of followup? Does the that segment of the treatable population who receives a longer-duration care plan do better? The research isn't designed to address that at all, and that is the key metric needed to determine if too much care is being provided.