The number of people in the North East detained under the Mental Health Act is among the highest in the country, it has been revealed.
Latest figures on detentions show that 73.8 people per 100,000 were detained in NHS facilities in the region in 2013/14.
This is the second highest in England, just behind London at 88.1 people per 100,000.
The Mental Health Act gives police powers to take people who appear to be suffering from a mental disorder to a ‘place of safety’ for assessment for up to 72 hours - in the interests of the health or safety of the person, or the protection of the public.
After assessment, the person will either be taken to hospital if not already there and detained under another section of The Act, admitted informally to hospital, or released.
Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) had a total of 860 patients detained under the Mental Health Act in 2013/14, the highest in the region.
Health chiefs at the trust say they are investing resources into their crisis care and working with police to help them reduce inappropriate detentions to police stations, which is why the detention on admissions to their hospitals is high.
Number of patients detained under the Mental Health Act in 2013/14 by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
NTW nurse director Anthony Deery said: “The Trust believes crisis care to be a hugely important part of our services and as a Trust we have invested a significant amount of resource into improving access and treatment to services.
“The Trust is currently taking forward a collaborative piece of work with partners to ensure that all key agencies are signed up to the expectations set out in the Government’s Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat and have agreed action plans to support the local delivery of effective mental health crisis care.
“Additionally, national research throughout 2013 showed that 76% of people detained under section 136 were returned to the community as not being mentally ill.
“In response NTW and Northumbria Police introduced a Street Triage Team to improve care for people experiencing crisis in the North East.”
There were 20 detentions on admission to Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; closely followed by Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust at 15.
Meanwhile, the number of times mentally ill people in Durham were held in police cells while awaiting assessment has risen, despite a commitment to reduce the practice.
The latest figures on such detentions, made under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983, show the reported number of ‘Place of Safety Orders’ involving Durham Police, where an individual was taken to a police station has increased 34.1%, from 41 in 2012/13 to 55 in 2013/14, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
In Northumbria, the number dropped by 17.9% from 67 to 55.
Chief Insp Graham Milne, who leads for Durham Police on custody issues said: “While the actual figure for detentions under section 136 remains relatively small, any significant difference can look huge in percentage terms.
“The rise may partly be down to the fact we are more attuned to the needs of people with mental health issues and we are more likely to take them to a place of safety rather than take them into custody.
“Any detentions under the Mental Health Act are always discussed at our weekly custody meetings and we have regular discussions with our local health care providers.
“Our aim is to keep improving how we deal with those who have mental health issues and learn any lessons we can from the experts in the field.”