The Mental Health Act in England and Wales allows for two types of detention in hospital: civil and forensic detentions. An association between the closure of mental illness beds and a rise in civil detentions has been reported.
To examine changes in the rate of court orders and transfer from prison to hospital for treatment, and explore associations with civil involuntary detentions, psychiatric bed numbers and the prison population.
Secondary analysis of routinely collected data with lagged time series analysis. We focused on two main types of forensic detentions in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals and private units: prison transfers and court treatment orders in England from 1984 to 2016. NHS bed numbers only were available.
There was an association between the number of psychiatric beds and the number of prison transfers. This was strongest at a time lag of 2 years with the change in psychiatric beds occurring first. There was an association between the rate of civil detentions and the rate of court orders. This was strongest at a time lag of 3 years. Linear regression indicated that 135 fewer psychiatric beds were associated with one additional transfer from prison to hospital; and as the rate of civil detentions increased by 72, the rate of court treatment orders fell by one.
The closure of psychiatric beds was associated with an increase in transfers from prison to hospital for treatment. The increase in civil detentions was associated with a reduction in the rate of courts detaining to hospital individuals who had offended.
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