Many of the commonly expressed concerns about the effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) have been addressed by scientific studies. However, this has done little to reassure service users and the public at large about its use in routine clinical practice. This 3-year study between 1997 and 1999 consisted of a series of audit cycles to systematically answer questions about ECT demographics and outcome across Scotland.
Audit standards were agreed and each ECT clinic was visited at least twice to assess facilities and adherence to protocol as set down by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK. Demographics and outcome after ECT were measured during 2 9-month sample periods. Adequacy of teaching and supervision was assessed directly and by questionnaire.
Facilities and equipment at ECT centers were up to date and generally of a high standard. ECT was given at a rate of 142 treatments per 100,000, mainly to white adult patients suffering from a depressive disorder. The ratio of females to males was approximately 2 to 1, and ECT was not given disproportionately to the elderly. 76% of patients were of informal status and 82% gave informed consent, with the remaining 18% receiving treatment under the safeguards of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984. There was a definite clinical improvement with treatment, defined as at least a 50% fall in the Montgomery Asberg Depression Scale, in 71% of those treated for depressive illness. 65% of those treated for a non -depressive psychosis were rated as at least ‘much improved’ on the Clinical Global Impression scale.
ECT given in routine clinical settings across Scotland meets Royal College of Psychiatrists standards and is an effective treatment of the clear majority of patients.