A Further Decrease in the Rates of Administration of Electroconvulsive Therapy in England

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an effective treatment of major depression, and there have been consistent improvements in the administration of ECT in the past decade. However, studies have reported a steady decline in the rates of use of ECT in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Despite this, there has been no consistent record of how much ECT is being given or to whom it is given, for more than 20 years. The purpose of this study is to estimate the change in frequency of ECT use, the length of courses, patient demographics, and clinical outcomes between 2006 and 2 periods of 2012/2013 and 2014/2015.


In 2012/2013, clinics were asked to complete an online survey giving details of every patient who started a course of ECT between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. This was repeated for the same period in 2014/2015.


There continues to be a striking decline in the number of courses of ECT prescribed. Course length has increased. Women are twice as likely to be prescribed ECT as men. Modal age is 60 to 80 years, and the most common diagnosis is depression. Most courses were rated as clinically effective, especially for people with severe illnesses. Maintenance ECT is used at half the clinics surveyed.


The use of ECT in England continues to decline. The reasons for this are unclear and need investigation.

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