ECT in New Zealand in 2012

The Office of the Director of Mental Health in New Zealand published their annual report (reporting on 2012) earlier this month. The statistics on electroconvulsive (ECT) show 265 people receiving 2670 treatments (this figure does not include people being treated by Health Services for Older People in the Central and Southern Regions). This is a much lower use than in Australia although the two countries share a College of Psychiatrists. Over half the patients were aged over 55. Only 16 people under the age of 30 were given ECT; there were 33 ECT patients aged over 80.

In New Zealand a relatively large proportion of ECT is given to non-consenting patients. In the Capital and Coast District Health Board it was 50 per cent of treatments; in Northland 44 per cent and in Counties Manukau 42 per cent; in several other Health Boards it was 30 per cent or more. Some Health Boards however didn’t give ECT to any non-consenting patients.

Mostly the background to the statistics is copied from previous reports, but there is an interesting addition: “but memory loss can be persistent and in some cases even permanent”. Now “the patient goes to sleep under anaesthesia” compared to last year’s “drifts off to sleep” – only a very minor improvement. An electric shock lasting upwards of a second (sometimes several) is still described as “a brief pulse of electricity”.

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