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Evidence base and economic impact of community treatment orders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Nuwan Galappathie*
Affiliation:
Fromeside Clinic, Blackberry Hill, Bristol BS16 1ED, email: ngalappathie@doctors.org.uk
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Abstract

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Creative Commons
Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright
Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2008

The recent article by Owino (Psychiatric Bulletin, July 2007, 31, 241–243) highlights that community treatment orders are not greatly different from the current provisions of section 17 leave. I believe that the evidence base and economic impact of the new orders require further consideration.

A well-resourced, systematic and independent review of community treatment orders was conducted by Churchill (Reference Churchill2007). This large review considered the findings of 72 studies conducted in 6 different countries over the last 30 years and concluded that there is very little evidence to suggest that they are associated with any positive outcomes. Furthermore, there is some evidence, and widespread agreement, that they cannot work as intended without adequate resources, and it is widely acknowledged that they will not work without the general support of mental healthcare providers.

The Cochrane review by Kisely et al (Reference Kisely, Campbell and Preston2005), which only includes two trials of community treatment orders, concludes that compulsory community treatment results in no significant difference in service use, social functioning or quality of life compared with standard care. Regarding economic impact of the community treatment, the Kings Fund report by Lawton-Smith (Reference Lawton-Smith2005) provides a detailed economic forecast. The report suggests that, over a period of 10–15 years, the number of people subjected to community treatment orders in England and Wales might rise to between 7800 and 13 000 at any one time. The financial cost predictions in England and Wales will be £3.4 million in the first year, later increasing to £21.2 million in 2014/15. This is to be considered against savings related to reduced use of hospital beds, of which it estimates saving £8.7 million in the first year, increasing to £47.7 million in 2014/15 (Department of Health, 2006).

Given the lack of credible evidence to support community treatment orders and the indication by Owino that they are not greatly dissimilar to the current provisions of section 17 leave, it is difficult to understand why the government has pursued their implementation. Arguments that they have been more convinced by the political notion that the orders will help improve public safety must also be considered against the evidence that they may also lead to cost savings through closure of in-patient beds.

References

Churchill, R. (2007) International Experiences of Using Community Treatment Orders. Institute of Psychiatry (http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/news/downloads/Final2CTOReport8March07.pdf).Google Scholar
Department of Health (2006) Mental Health Bill 2006: Regulatory Impact Assessment. Department of Health.Google Scholar
Kisely, S. Campbell, L. & Preston, N. (2005) Compulsory community and involuntary outpatient treatment for patients with severe mental disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3, CD004408.Google Scholar
Lawton-Smith, S. (2005) A Question of Numbers: The potential impact of community-based treatment orders in England and Wales. King's Fund.Google Scholar
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