THE number of compulsory mental health treatments in Scotland has hit its highest level in at least 15 years, according to a watchdog report.

In 2016/2017, the Mental Welfare Commission was notified of 5422 new episodes of the care orders being used – a rise of 8.2 per cent on the previous period.

Its latest report shows just over half of emergency orders were found to have been approved by a mental health officer.

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Dr Gary Morrison, executive director at the commission, said: “We are once again concerned at the overall continued upwards trends, particularly in the use of one specific category of compulsory treatment – emergency detention – which has risen steeply.

“We are concerned because it was designed to be used only in times of crisis, and it affords fewer safeguards for the individual, yet the figures are showing that it is fast catching up on the more expected route to compulsory treatment.

“While we don’t know the causes for the rising figures, they could indicate a general increased pressure on mental health services, and possibly increased distress amongst patients as more people are being given compulsory, rather than voluntary, treatment.”

In 2001/02 there were 4849 instances of compulsory treatment orders being used through old legislation.

The commission’s latest Mental Health Act Monitoring Report findings form part of a continued upwards trend, with the number of orders made through the legislation at its highest since it was introduced in 2003.

There are three routes to compulsory treatment. The sharpest rise of these was through emergency detention certificates – used 2414 times in 2016/17 and up by 12 per cent on the previous year. Emergency orders are designed for “crisis” situations when a person needs urgent care or treatment for mental ill health.

The Mental Welfare Commission has a statutory duty to monitor and publish information on the use of the act.