RESEARCHERS have recorded a large increase in the number of North-East psychiatric patients given electric shock treatment.

Figures obtained from the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 3,383 instances where patients were given electro-convulsive therapy, or ECT.

This represented a 48 per cent increase on the 2,283 ECT administrations given during 2006.

The figures were obtained by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a campaigning international organisation set up by the Church of Scientology.

Scientologists are opposed to the methods used by psychiatrists to treat mental illness.

Brian Daniels, national spokesman for the CCHR in the UK said: "In spite of their sophisticated trappings of science, the brutality of ECT shows that psychiatry hasnt advanced beyond the cruelty and barbarism of its earliest treatments.

"It has all the marks of physical torture methods that might belong in the armoury of a KGB interrogator rather than in the inventory of a medical practioner", he added.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists provide a leaflet about ECT on its website.

It states that ECT remains a controversial treatment which should only be used in more serious conditions.

The RCP leaflet admits that no-one is certain how ECT works but it is thought that it causes the release of brain chemicals which help patients recover from their illness.

Recent research has suggested that ECT can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, or Nice, have said that ECT should be used only in severe depression, mania or catatonia.

The RCP leaflet states that the use of ECT in England between 1985 and 2002 more than halved, possibly because of better psychological and drug treatments.

Nobody from the trust was available for comment.