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Publication, Part of

Mental Health Act Statistics, Annual Figures 2019-20

Official statistics, National statistics

National Statistics

Length of Detention update

Update 25/03/2021

This publication has been updated since the original publication on 27/10/2021 to include a new analysis and accompanying data file on continuous length of detention.

This additional content is classified as experimental and should be used with caution. Experimental statistics are new official statistics undergoing evaluation. Content and methodology may change in future versions due to further development and user feedback. More information about experimental statistics can be found on the UK Statistics Authority website.

25 March 2021 09:30 AM


This publication contains the official statistics about uses of the Mental Health Act(1) ('the Act') in England during 2019-20.

Under the Act, people with a mental disorder may be formally detained in hospital (or 'sectioned') in the interests of their own health or safety, or for the protection of other people. They can also be treated in the community but subject to recall to hospital for assessment and/or treatment under a Community Treatment Order (CTO).

In 2016-17, the way we source and produce these statistics changed. Previously these statistics were produced from the KP90 aggregate data collection. They are now primarily produced from the Mental Health Services Data Set (MHSDS). The MHSDS provides a much richer data source for these statistics, allowing for new insights into uses of the Act.

However, some providers that make use of the Act are not yet submitting data to the MHSDS, or submitting incomplete data. Improvements in data quality have been made over the past year. NHS Digital is working with partners to ensure that all providers are submitting complete data and this publication includes guidance on interpreting these statistics.

Please note: This publication covers the 2019-20 reporting year and, as such, will feature the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in England; however, it is likely the impact of COVID-19 will be more evident in the 2020-21 publication as the national lockdown began on 23 March 2020. The time series data for people subject to detention does show a decrease in people subject to detention in March 2020 so the context of COVID-19 should be kept in mind when using and interpreting these statistics.

A correction has been made to this publication on 27 October 2020. This amendment relates to rates of detention on page 14 of the Summary Report. This has now been corrected and the replacement file uploaded. NHS Digital apologises for any inconvenience caused.


(1) The Mental Health Act 1983 as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007 and other legislation.

In 2019-20:

  • 50,893 new detentions under the Mental Health Act were recorded, but the overall national totals will be higher. Not all providers submitted data, and some submitted incomplete data. Trend comparisons are also affected by changes in data quality. For the subset of providers that submitted good quality1 detentions data in each of the last three years, we estimate there was an increase in detentions of 0.8 per cent from last year. Further information is provided in the Background Data Quality Report.
  • Comparisons can still be made between groups of people using population-based rates, even though the rates shown are based on incomplete data2. Known detention rates were higher for males (91.8 per 100,000 population) than females (84.4 per 100,000 population).
  • Amongst adults, detention rates tend to decline with age. Known detention rates for the 18 to 34 age group (129.8 detentions per 100,000 population) were around 40% higher than for those aged 50 to 64 (92.5 per 100,000 population). But rates rose again for the 65+ age group (95.0 per 100,000 population).
  • Amongst the five broad ethnic groups, known rates of detention for the ‘Black or Black British’ group (321.7 detentions per 100,000 population) were over four times those of the White group (73.4 per 100,000 population).
  • Known rates of Community Treatment Order (CTO) use for males (10.5 per 100,000 population) were higher than the rate for females (6.1 per 100,000 population). Across age groups, those aged 35 to 49 had the highest rate of CTO use (14.5 known uses per 100,000 population compared to 8.3 uses per 100,000 population for all age groups).
  • Amongst broad ethnic groups, known rates of CTO use for the ‘Black or Black British’ group (61.3 uses per 100,000 population) were over ten times the rate for the White group (6.0 uses per 100,000 population).

Last edited: 24 March 2021 1:56 pm