Community Treatment Orders were introduced in November 2008, by new sections 17A-G being inserted into the Mental Health Act 1983 by the Mental Health Act 2007. In the Code of Practice it is called Supervised Community Treatment; in the Act those subject to CTOs are called community patients.
The nearest equivalent in the past was supervised discharge (after-care under supervision) under s25A-J. These provisions were repealed when CTOs were introduced. Transitional provisions provided that, during the subsequent six months, patients subject to after-care under supervision were to be assessed and the patient placed under s2, s3, guardianship, or a CTO, or discharged altogether. The relevant commencement order was Mental Health Act 2007 (Commencement No. 6 and After-care under Supervision: Savings, Modifications and Transitional Provisions) Order 2008.
For further information on CTOs, see Reference Guide chapter 15 (Supervised Community Treatment) and Code of Practice chapters 25 (Supervised community treatment) and 28 (Guardianship, leave of absence or SCT?).
A CTO is an option for s3 and unrestricted criminal patients (hospital order, transfer direction, or hospital direction).
Longer-term leave of absence may not be granted to a patient unless the responsible clinician first considers whether the patient should be discharged on a CTO (s17(2A)). Longer-term leave is defined as more than seven consecutive days, or an extension which would make the total period more than seven consecutive days (s17(2B)).
The criteria of which the RC must be satisfied are found in s17A(5):
An AMHP must certify in writing that he agrees the criteria are met and that it is appropriate to make the CTO (s17A(4)). The process can be seen in the relevant statutory form: Form CTO1 section 17A - community treatment order.
The time periods for a CTO are the same as for detention under s3. It lasts initially for a maximum of six months, but can be renewed for a further six months and thereafter can be renewed for 12-month periods (s17C, s20A(3)).
There are two mandatory conditions (s17B(3)):
The first mandatory conditions relates to renewal of the CTO; the second to assessment for a SOAD certificate.
Other discretionary conditions can be specified if the RC and AMHP agree that they are necessary or appropriate for one or more of the following purposes (s17B(2)):
The consent to treatment provisions which apply during the CTO are found in Part 4A (s64A-K). For details, see Reference Guide chapter 17 (Medical treatment of Supervised Community Treatment patients (Part 4A)) and Code of Practice chapters 23 (Medical treatment under the Act) and 24 (Treatments subject to special rules and procedures).
Once a CTO is in place, the following actions can be taken:
The RC can recall the patient if he breaches a mandatory condition (s17E(2)) or if in his opinion (s17E(1)):
Breach of a discretionary condition is just a factor which will be taken into account when considering the criteria above.
Recall permits detention in hospital for a maximum of 72 hours (s17F(6)) during which it must be decided whether to revoke the CTO or release the patient back onto the CTO.
The CTO can then be revoked if (a) the RC believes the s3 admission criteria are met, and (b) an AMHP agrees with that opinion and thinks revocation is appropriate (s17F(4)).
The underlying authority for detention lies dormant for the duration of the CTO (s17D) and is resurrected by revocation (17G). However, for calculation of renewal dates and eligibility periods, the detention is treated as having begun on the day of revocation (s17G(5)).
A community patient can apply for a Mental Health Tribunal hearing during the first six months (s66(1)(ca)) and during each period of extension (s66(1)(fza) and (faa)). If the CTO is revoked, the patient can apply to the Tribunal during the first six months of detention (s66(1)(cb)) and during each period for which the detention is renewed (s66(1)(f)).
If an application is made by the patient while detained but he subsequently is placed on a CTO, the application does not lapse but Tribunal proceedings continue, and this does not affect any other entitlement to apply to the Tribunal: AA v Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust  UKUT 195 (AAC). The same logic should apply in reverse, i.e. when the patient applies on the CTO but it is subsequently revoked.
A community patient can also appeal to the hospital managers at any time. The managers of the responsible hospital can discharge the CTO (s23(2)(c)). The "responsible hospital" is the hospital in which he was liable to be detained immediately before the community treatment order was made, subject to section 19A (Regulations as to assignment of responsibility for community patients) (s17A(7)).
Also under s23(2)(c) the RC can discharge at any time, as can the nearest relative, although this latter power is subject to the same dangerousness considerations as for discharge from detention (s25).
Automatic references must be made by the managers of the responsible hospital at certain times:
The following page explains the introduction of CTOs, and contains some external links:
Kathryn Walsh, 'Community treatment orders fail to reduce psychiatric readmissions for people with psychosis' (The Mental Elf, 14/5/13). The government-funded OCTET randomised controlled trial (see Burns et al, 'Community treatment orders for patients with psychosis (OCTET): a randomised controlled trial' (2013) 381 Lancet 1627) tested whether CTOs reduce admissions compared with use of s17 leave, and found that at 12 months, despite the significant difference in length of initial compulsory outpatient treatment (median 183 days on CTOs but 8 days on s17) the number of patients readmitted did not differ between the two groups. The researchers’ interpretation was: 'In well coordinated mental health services the imposition of compulsory supervision does not reduce the rate of readmission of psychotic patients. We found no support in terms of any reduction in overall hospital admission to justify the significant curtailment of patients' personal liberty.'