Something doesn’t add up

English psychiatrists have achieved something remarkable. They have managed to give ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) to a negative number of consenting patients.

Last year, when Conservative MP Anne Milton asked a question about the numbers of people undergoing ECT, the Department of Health came up with the following figures:
Total number of people given ECT in 2006-7 = 1069
Number given ECT without their consent in 2007 = 1778
That is just an example for one year. The rest can be seen here

Something has gone wrong. The number of non-consenting patients cannot be larger than the total number of people undergoing ECT.

The problem lies with the total figure. The Department of Health appear to have no idea how many people undergo ECT every year. Only a fraction of the ECT used in English hospitals finds its way into their statistics.

It shouldn’t be difficult to count how many people have ECT. It is not after all something that is hidden. ECT is given is special clinics in hospitals. There are about 150 of these clinics, divided between 76 mental health trusts. A very few trusts don’t have ECT clinics, most have one or two, a few have more (up to 5). Each mental health trust should be able to find out without too much difficulty how many people have ECT in their clinics. So why doesn’t this information find its way into the central statistics?

Apparently some hospitals don’t realise that ECT is – for statistical purposes – an “operative procedure” and so they don’t send in any ECT statistics at all. The Department of Health has known about this problem for 15 years or more. Couldn’t they have done something about it by now – for example written to every mental health trust reminding them that they should be sending in statistics on ECT use?

Thirty years ago, when someone asked a parliamentary question about the numbers of people undergoing ECT, they were given a useful answer:

The total number of ECT treatments carried out in NHS hospitals in England in 1979 was 160,005: the total number of courses completed in 1979 was 24,428. (Hansard, Written answers, 28 November 1980)

If they could do it in 1980, why can’t they do it today?

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One Response to Something doesn’t add up

  1. Bill Balharry says:

    That is a most impressive analysis of the use of ECT situation. Thank you very much for your work. Bill Balharry.

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