In the study, researchers compared two separate groups of mentally ill patients to test if they experienced fewer hospital admissions. The first set of 166 patients were under CTOs, which can initially last for up to six months and can be renewed at the end of this period. Meanwhile, the other 167 participants tested had been placed on Section 17 leave, which is intended to be only a very short-term solution and can last a matter of days.
Their findings, published in The Lancet this month, revealed that 36 per cent of patients in both groups were readmitted to hospital within one year. There were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of the frequency and duration of admissions, the study found.
Both sets of patients were also remarkably similar in their social and medical outcomes.
Professor Burns added: "We were all a bit stunned by the result, but it was very clear data and we got a crystal clear result. So I've had to change my mind. I think sadly – because I've supported them for 20-odd years – the evidence is staring us in the face that CTOs don't work."
The Lancet study
The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 26 March 2013 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60107-5 This article can be found in the following collections: Psychiatry ( Schizophrenia ) Community treatment orders for patients with psychosis (OCTET): a randomised controlled trial
Prof Tom Burns DSc, Jorun Rugås, PhD, Andrew Molodynski MBChB , John Dawson LLD, Ksenija Yeeles BSc , Maria Vazquez-Montes PhD, Merryn Voysey MBiostat, Julia Sinclair DPhil, Prof Stefan Priebe FRCPsych
Interpretation In well coordinated mental health services the imposition of compulsory supervision does not reduce the rate of readmission of psychotic patients. We found no support in terms of any reduction in overall hospital admission to justify the significant curtailment of patients' personal liberty.