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Less than half emergency detentions were carried out with proper safeguards during pandemic

HUMAN rights experts in Scotland have reported that a key safeguard in emergency mental health detentions was followed in fewer than half of cases during the pandemic.

Research by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland found just over four in 10 emergency detentions between March 1 2020 and February 28 this year were carried out with the consent of a specialist mental health social worker.

The organisation, which is accountable to Scottish government ministers, said that this proportion represents a fall from the five-year average of 51.7 per cent, adding it had warned repeatedly of a lack of specialist consent to detentions in recent years.

The decline was seen in both in- and out-of-hours detentions, and in those that started in the community as well as in hospital, the commission said.

Mental Welfare Commission medical director Dr Arun Chopra said that it was not known why more people had been detained for treatment, but he described the rise as a “concern,” adding that it may be related to the pandemic.

The report also found an increase in the number of detentions of people from visible ethnic minorities, but it cautioned that there were gaps in its data for ethnicity, with the commission saying that it was working on a more substantive report on ethnicity, race and mental health in Scotland.

Dr Chopra said: “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.”

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