The number of deaths among people being treated under the Mental Health Act (MHA) has risen to almost 500 in England this year, figures suggest.
This represents a “concerning” increase on the annual average in recent years, according to the chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, Jeremy Hunt.
Data from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) Insight report, published in March, showed that there had been 490 deaths of detained patients from the beginning of March 2020 to 5 March 2021.
Some 166 of those deaths involved suspected or confirmed Covid, while 324 were not Covid-related, the report said.
The BBC reported the figure to be higher than the average since 2012. It said that an average of 273 people had died each year between 2012 and 2019 while detained in hospital or being supervised in the community while subject to the act.
The CQC cautioned that the figures may not be directly comparable, as the number of deaths published in the regular Insight briefings is based on date of death notification, while the number of deaths published in the annual MHA reports is based on the date on which someone died.
Mr Hunt told the BBC that the figures on deaths were “very concerning”, adding that “not just mental health, but every speciality now has shortages of doctors and nurses”.
He said: “We still put far too many people into secure accommodation, [when] you haven’t committed any crime, just because it’s the only option left.”
In another Insight report, published in July, the CQC said there had been 581 notifications of deaths of people who were detained, or liable to be detained, under the act between March 2020 and 2 July this year.
Of this total, 466 were received from NHS organisations – of which 127 deaths were indicated as having involved Covid-19 – and 115 were from independent providers, of which 41 deaths were recorded as having involved Covid-19.
The CQC is due to publish its MHA annual report in December, which will report on deaths of both detained patients and patients subject to community treatment orders between 1 April 2020 and 31 March this year.
The watchdog said this report would include further information about the causes of deaths, including Covid-19.
A CQC spokesperson said: “All providers registered with the CQC must notify us about deaths of people who are detained, or liable to be detained, under the MHA.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have regularly been publishing data on the number of deaths of people detained under the MHA in our Insight briefings.
“In our Insight briefing, we published data on the numbers of deaths of people detained under the MHA notified to CQC from March 1 2020 to July 2 2021.
“A significant number of these deaths were reported as suspected or confirmed to be related to Covid-19.
“We will be reporting further information on the deaths of detained patients and deaths of patients subject to community treatment orders from April 1 2020 to March 31 2021 in our MHA annual report later in the year.”
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