A dramatic rise in the number of people with serious mental illness being recalled to hospital has led to concern that community mental health teams are overstretched.

Community treatment orders, which came into force in 2008, mean people detained under the Mental Health Act can be released into the community, where they are still legally compelled to take medication and receive treatment. Service users subject to community treatment orders are regularly reviewed and can be recalled to hospital if their position deteriorates.

Information Centre data reveals that in 2010-11 the numberof people subject to an order who were re-detained rose by almost a third on the 2009-10 figure.

Last year 1,601 people were judged to be well enough to receive treatment in the community only to be recalled to hospital, compared with 1,217 in the previous year.

The rise is particularly significant since the number of new orders issued fell by 6.6 per cent from 2009-10 to 2010-11. A snapshot taken at 31 March found a total of 4,291 people were subject to an order.

Campaigners have said the rise in those recalled to hospital points to pressures on community mental health teams.

Mental Health Foundation head of policy Simon Lawton-Smith said it was unlikely the rise was down to the number of people given CTOs. He said each person given an order is put on a care plan, which should help them stay out of hospital.

“We do know that care plans are not always followed chapter and verse,” he said. He added that community teams had been put under extra pressure by the orders, at a time when “resources are under pressure”.

He said this may limit their ability to follow care plans, meaning more people becoming more ill and requiring detention.

Royal College of Nursing mental health adviser Ian Hulatt said the pressure on community mental health teams was a “plausible interpretation” of the figures.

He said: “Trusts are making an honest attempt to provide a decent service, but in the context of diminished resources. In order to balance the books community teams are being rationalised and having their geographic areas extended. There have been losses of staff and early implementation teams are being reduced.”