A key safeguard in emergency mental health detentions was followed in fewer than half of cases during the pandemic, a report has warned.
Just over four in 10 (43.8%) emergency detentions in Scotland between March 1 2020 and February 28 this year were carried out with the consent of a specialist mental health social worker, said the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.
The organisation, which is accountable to Scottish Government ministers, said this is a drop from the five-year average of 51.7%, adding it had been warning over a lack of specialist consent to detentions in recent years.
The drop came across the board for both in and out-of-hours detentions, as well as those that started in the community as well as in hospital, the commission said.
Overall, there were 9.1% more detentions compared with the previous year, with 10,059 records of people with mental ill health deemed to need urgent treatment in crisis situations, the report says.
The average year-on-year increase for the past five years has been 5%, the report added.
Dr Arun Chopra, medical director of the Mental Welfare Commission, said the reasons for the rise in people detained for treatment was unknown “but it is a concern”, adding it may be related to the pandemic.
He said: “There is small but clear increased rise in the use of the Act this year that may be related to the pandemic.
“We can say that the pandemic exacerbated existing problems with the law.
“We are some years away from any new legislation that may follow recommendations from the independent review into Scottish mental health law.
“In the meantime, best practice is not being realised and we will continue to raise our concerns over the lack of mental health officer consent to detentions.
“We recognise that while this report presents data at a population level, every incident relates to a person and those important to them.”
The report also found an increase in the number of detentions of people from visible ethnic minorities, but cautioned there were gaps in its data for ethnicity and the commission said it was working on a more substantive report on ethnicity, race and mental health in Scotland.
The report is called: The Use Of The Mental Health Act In Scotland During The Covid-19 Pandemic.