• Deaths of patients detained under the Mental Health Act have doubled in 2020 compared to last year
  •  To date 122 people have died whilst under section, of these 56 patients died from either confirmed or suspected covid-19
  • The CQC has written to providers highlighting its concern over the deaths

Deaths of patients detained under the Mental Health Act are running at twice the rate of 2019, with half of the fatalities down to covid-19, new data has revealed.

The Care Quality Commission have said 112 patients detained under the Mental Health Act had died between 1 March and 1 May. This compares to a total of 56 deaths during the same period of 2019, 61 deaths in 2018, and 70 deaths in 2017.

These figures include both people who are detained in hospital and people subject to the Mental Health Act, but who are still in the community.

Since 1 March, 56 detained patients have died from either suspected or confirmed covid-19 said the CQC. 54 of these were under the care of a mental health provider, and two of non-mental health providers. 

However, it is likely that the number of detained patients who have died with coronavirus is higher. 

According to NHS England’s latest data there have been 65 such deaths recorded within stand alone mental health providers. What is more, NHSE’ data also does not capture the number of patients transferred from mental health trusts to acute trusts for treatment who may have subsequently died. HSJ has previously asked the national commissioner if it is able to share any data regarding this, but it did not respond. 

The Office for National Statistics also confirmed to HSJ it could not supply a breakdown of its data on deaths within care homes by those with a psychiatric condition.

Last week the CQC wrote to providers asking them to continue reporting the deaths of patients under the Mental Health Act regardless of whether they are transferred to an acute trust for treatment. HSJ understands some providers had taken patients off their section when transferring them. 

Dr Kevin Cleary, deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health said: “This increase of death notifications is due to coronavirus related deaths and while this mirrors a rise in notifications from other sectors and includes deaths from confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases, it is obviously of concern.

“That a number of people detained under the Mental Health Act have died from suspected or confirmed coronavirus is a particular worry as these are some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

He added mental health providers should continue to notify the CQC of the deaths of people subject to the Mental Health Act in a “timely way”.

“We want to be clear what we expect from providers in term of their management of coronavirus and we will be asking some providers to urgently confirm the action they are taking to manage coronavirus outbreaks.”

Deborah Coles director of charity Inquest said: “There has been considerable delay in getting any scrutiny of the impact of this pandemic on mental health and learning disability settings. Finally some data has been disclosed but it is incomplete. People in detention are reliant on others for their care and there have been well documented concerns about ill treatment and abuse.

“At a time when there is no external scrutiny and family visits are suspended, openness and transparency is essential to ensure the human rights of detained people are protected. This should not have to be fought for. We need to know how this pandemic is impacting on therapeutic services, staffing levels and the use of seclusion, restraint and medication.”