The number of people detained in secure psychiatric wards has reached its highest ever level, according to a new report
In July there were 3,723 people detained in secure forensic units, according to a factfile published by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.
The government said the figures reflect its policy to make sure offenders with mental health problems are being treated in the most suitable environment.
The Sainsbury Centre’s file states the population of high and medium secure units has almost doubled (45%) between 1996 and 2006.
Although the number in high secure hospitals has fallen, numbers in medium secure beds have grown consistently.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “More medium-secure services have been built over the last decade and the NHS have been working to transfer any patients out of high-secure accommodation if their needs would be better met in lower levels of security.
“We have been working closely with prisons and the NHS to speed up transfers from prisons for those that are so ill that they cannot be treated in prison and need to be detained in secure accommodation.”
The file states most people are admitted to secure hospitals from prison, and that more than one third of people detained in 2004 had committed violent offences.
In 2005, 26 people died while being detained in a secure hospital.