ECT in England: Medical Negligence in Specific Populations

By Leili Najmabadi 

ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, is continuously in practice in England, despite controversies regarding its use. Most recipients who receive ECT are women and the elderly (at 66% and 56%), and 39% of all recipients receive this treatment without consent. The total recipient count in England is currently 2100-2700 people. Fifty-six National Health Service Trusts in the country received requests from the Freedom of Information Act, and 30% of these Trusts were found to violate legislation regarding patients receiving a second opinion. Violations concerning efficacy and adverse effects were also studied through information on usage, demographics, consent, and adherence to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence guidelines, as well as those from England’s Mental Health Act. Four of these Trusts were able to give information on positive and negative outcomes in this study, and none of the Trusts gave information on post-treatment efficacy. Of the 56 Trusts, only 10 reported the number of people that experienced psychological treatment and followed government guidelines before using ECT.

These findings in England raise the issue of medical negligence, which Professor John Read from University of East London attributes to the variability of ECT usage between regions in the country based on local psychiatrists’ individual opinions. The possibility of more regulations for ECT could prove to have a large effect on treatment against will and more effective treatment that does not include this dangerous procedure. Also, elderly women, who are the target population of this treatment, will hopefully be able to participate in an evidence-based mental health system that promotes education, consent, and a variety of options.


Wiley. (2017, October 20). Audit uncovers concerns about the use of electroconvulsive therapy in England. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 27, 2017 from