Opinion Former Article

Rethink Mental Illness: It’s time to review over-use of draconian powers which deprive rights of mentally ill

Tuesday 29 November 2011 - The charity Rethink Mental Illness is calling for a review of powers which force people with a mental illness to take medication and comply with treatment against their will.

Community treatment orders were first introduced in 2008 and were intended only for use in the most extreme cases. People subjected to the orders are compelled to follow a treatment plan and can be forced to go back into hospital if they do not comply.

However, statistics published today by the NHS Information Centre (1) show that in March this year, 3,270 people were subject to these orders. This means the figure has barely changed since last year, when the number reached ten times more than the government originally predicted at 3,325.

Despite an outcry from mental health organisations at the time and a call for health professionals to reduce their use, these figures reveal no action has been taken.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness said: “I am extremely concerned about the over-use of these powers. These orders are extremely difficult to lift, meaning someone could be forced to carry on taking extremely powerful drugs, they no longer feel they need.

It’s also important to bear in mind that the antipsychotic medication prescribed in many of these cases can have very strong side-effects so it’s understandable that people can be very reluctant to take them if they don’t feel it’s absolutely necessary.

“It reflects a risk-averse culture within mental health services, in which professionals are routinely putting anyone discharged from hospital onto these orders – this was never how they were intended to be used.

“Over three thousand people are currently having their rights deprived, many unnecessarily, just because they are ill. It’s time for the government to take action and hold a full review of these draconian powers.”


For more information, please contact Rachel Whitehead, Senior Media Relations Officer for Rethink Mental Illness on 0207 840 3138

Notes to editors

Rethink Mental Illness, the leading national mental health membership charity, works to help everyone affected by severe mental illness recover a better quality of life.

Rethink Mental Illness helps more than 52,000 people each year through its services and support groups and by providing information on mental illness.

Our website www.rethink.org receives more than 500,000 visitors every year.


1. Mental Health Bulletin - Fifth report from Mental Health Minimum Dataset (MHMDS) annual returns, 2011


Rachel Whitehead
Senior Media Relations Officer, Rethink Mental Illness
020 7840 3138
Tweet me! @Rachel_Rethink

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