Fears that supervised community treatment orders would be disproportionately imposed on patients from ethnic minorities have proven to be founded.
The controversial orders were brought in last year with the Mental Health Act. They allow trusts to treat sectioned patients in the community instead of in hospital.
Figures collated by the Mental Health Act Commission - now replaced by the Care Quality Commission - show non-white British patients account for 27 per cent of all those detained under the Mental Health Act, but 34 per cent of those subject to community treatment orders. Many opponents of the orders had warned they would be disproportionately applied to BME patients, who are already more likely to be treated for mental health problems and detained than white patients.
Patients from black Caribbean backgrounds made up 7 per cent of those treated under the orders, followed by black Africans, at 6 per cent. Those classed as “other white” comprised 7 per cent of patients on community treatment orders.
The Mental Health Act Commission’s biennial report states: “This requires monitoring and further investigation. The data suggests that those black groups that are already over-represented in the detained population may be even more disproportionately represented amongst patients subject to community powers.”
Patrick Vernon, chief executive of the Afiya Trust, which campaigns against race inequality in health and social care, said the figures were down to low levels of cultural awareness training among the staff who put patients on the orders.
He said: “This is one of the few areas of law where your liberties can be taken away and people feel their views aren’t always being heard, respected and recognised. If we must have community treatment orders they must be used appropriately and reviewed regularly.”
Since October there have been 1,700 treatment orders, substantially more than the Department of Health’s estimated 450 in the first year.