A GROUP founded by the controversial Church of Scientology protested outside a psychiatric hospital against its use of electroshock therapy.

Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights protesters gathered outside Meadowfield Hospital in Worthing on Saturday.

They demonstrated against the use of electroconvulsive therapy on psychiatric patients, something which has greatly increased at the hospital over the past decade.

More than 800 such treatments were administered at the hospital in the year leading up to March 2019, a nearly four-fold increase compared with 2011/12.

Commission spokesman Brian Daniels claimed the therapy was “torture”, a term strongly disputed by health chiefs.

“Anaesthetics and paralysing agents can make electroshock appear less barbaric,” he said.

“But that’s only for the person witnessing the torture.

“For the person being shocked, there’s no difference.”

Electroconvulsive therapy involves sending an electric current through the patient’s brain to relieve the symptoms of mental health problems such as severe depression. It is given under general anaesthetic so the patient is not awake during treatment.

The therapy has been controversial in the past because of its unethical use in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.

But a spokeswoman for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Meadowfield Hospital, worried protesters would cause “unnecessary distress” to patients.

“We are extremely concerned about the language that this group has used to describe what is a safe and effective evidence-based treatment for people living with severe depression,” she said.

“We are particularly worried about the unnecessary distress that this may cause patients and their families and urge them to seriously reconsider their language.

“Sussex Partnership uses electroconvulsive therapy in line with national guidelines set out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

“The decision to offer electroconvulsive therapy is always discussed in full with the patient, their family and carers.

“The last thing we want is for anyone being offered ECT to feel anxious or worried about their treatment.

“If you have any questions or concerns please talk to your doctor.”

The Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights was founded by members of the Church of Scientology in 1969 as an “independent mental health watchdog”.

It has historically campaigned against psychiatry across the world.