Electric Shock Therapy Outrage

Mental health care patients in Worcestershire are given nearly 700 electric shock treatments a year, new figures have revealed. According to the statistics, the controversial electroconvulsive therapy has been administered 3,400 times in Worcestershire since 2001 – more than any of the 27 health trusts nationwide that have provided figures apart from Leicestershire. The therapy involves electrodes being attached to the head and an electric current being passed briefly though the electrodes to the brain, causing a seizure.

Surveys by the medical profession have highlighted serious long-term side-effects of the treatment – including brain damage, memory loss and intellectual impairment, while human rights campaigners have branded it “cruel and barbaric” and say it should only be given as a last resort.

But mental health care bosses say the figure equates to just 125 patients treated per year from a Worcestershire population of half a million.

The figures were obtained from the Worcestershire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust by the Citizens Commission On Human Rights (CCHR) under the Freedom Of Information Act. Commission spokesman Chris Wrapson described them as “extraordinary”.

He said: “Psychiatrists cloak shock treatment in medical legitimacy, the effects of which are horrific, and the full ramifications are not explained to the patients or families, The brutality of ECT shows psychiatry has not advanced beyond the cruelty and barbarism of its earliest treatment.”

A survey by the Royal College of Psychiatrists proved patients treated with electric shock therapy can suffer memory loss as a result.

Of the 1,344 psychiatrists surveyed, 21 per cent referred to long-term side from page one effects and risks of brain damage, memory loss and intellectual impairment.

GPs reported that 34 per cent of patients seen in the months after receiving electroconvulsive therapy were poor or worse.

But a spokesman for Worcestershire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said: “The figure quoted by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of 3,400 relates to approximately 680 administrations per year.

“Most administrations would have been given in batches of six per course of treatment, therefore, the figures relate to approximately 125 people being treated per year from a population of 542,107 in 2001 and a population of 555,832 in 2005.

“Each community mental health team has a caseload of 300 to 500 people at any time. Across the whole county that would be a figure in excess of 10,000 people being seen during that year, therefore, this equates to approximately one per cent or less of the people being treated.”

She added that the trust ensures that the therapy is carried out in accordance with the National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidance.