There was a decrease in the administration of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) in mental health centres in 2020, according to the Mental Health Commission.

It has found that overall compliance to the rules and code of practice relevant to ECT increased.

'The Administration of Electro-convulsive Therapy in Approved Centres: Activity Report 2020', outlines how often ECT is used, the people who receive it, the services providing it, and the quality and safety of the service.

The report shows that there were 300 programmes of ECT administered to 239 residents in 2020 - down from 395 ECT programmes on 286 residents in 2019.

2,329 individual treatments of ECT were administered in 2020, representing a 25% decrease compared to 2019, when 3,124 individual treatments were administered.

In 2020 and 2019, more females than males received ECT, at a ratio of approximately two-thirds to one-third respectively. This was also the case in 2018.

The Mental Health Commission said the higher ratio of female to male ECT recipients "may be reflective of the relatively higher incidence of depressive illness in women as compared with men".

In 2020, 81% of ECT treatments (1,881) were administered with consent, and 19% (442) were administered without consent.

In total, 19% of programmes of ECT (59) in 2020 involved one or more treatments without consent, compared to 16% (62) in 2019.

A programme of ECT refers to no more than 12 treatments of ECT prescribed by a consultant psychiatrist, with the total number of treatments administered in a programme of ECT varying from one to 12 treatments.

The report shows that the majority of residents were administered one programme of ECT (70% in 2020 and 73% in 2019).

Mood disorders were reported as a diagnosis for 80% of residents who were administered ECT in 2020, with the same diagnosis accounting for 85% in 2019.

Refractory (resistance) to medication was the most common single indication for ECT, accounting for 64% of programmes (193) in 2020, and 66% (259) in 2019.

It says improvement was reported as the outcome in 63% of programmes of ECT (189) in 2020, compared to 76% in 2019 (299).

During 2020, residents receiving ECT ranged in age from 25 to 93-years-old - compared to 22 to 89 years-old in 2019 - and the average age of all residents who were administered ECT was 62, a slight increase from an average of 59 years-old in 2019.

The purpose of publishing the report according to the Mental Health Commission is to provide an assurance to the public "that this medical procedure is regulated and monitored by the MHC".

Electro-convulsive therapy is a medical procedure in which an electric current is passed briefly through the brain via electrodes applied to the scalp to induce generalised seizure activity.

The person receiving treatment is placed under general anaesthetic and muscle relaxants are given to prevent body spasms.

Its purpose according to the Mental Health Commission is to treat illnesses such as depressive disorders, schizophrenia, schizotypal, and delusional disorders.