Workload pressures on community psychiatric nurses have been blamed for a dramatic rise in the number of people with serious mental illness being recalled to hospital.
Community treatment orders – which came into force in 2008 – mean people detained under the Mental Health Act can be released into the community but are still compelled by law to take medication or receive treatment.
Data from the NHS Information Centre reveals that in 2010-11 the number of people on a community treatment order who were later detained again rose by almost a third from 2009-10.
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. A snapshot taken at 31 March found a total of 4,291 people were subject to an order.
Campaigners have said the rise in hospital recalls points to increased pressures on community mental health teams. They warn that the teams do not have enough staff to make sure all those on community orders are following the care plans that are meant to keep them out of detention.
Mental Health Foundation head of policy Simon Lawton-Smith said: “Resources are under pressure and are very tight.”
Royal College of Nursing mental health adviser Ian Hulatt said there were “inadequate and diminishing resources” to support community mental health nurses, resulting in negative consequences for frontline services.
He said: “Trusts are making an honest attempt to provide a decent service and cover, 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.”