Shock and outrage at neglect of mental health patients

By staff writers
July 19, 2009

High levels of neglect and poor quality care in UK mental health wards have been revealed in an official report published today. The Mental Health Act Commission reports that 39 per cent of the suicides by hanging were those of patients who were supposed to be the subject of close observation by staff.

Specific cases include a patient found hanging with signs of rigor mortis already apparent, although he was meant to be the subject of checks every fifteen minutes.

The report also found that 30 per cent of wards were running at more than 100 per cent occupancy and that many staff who could be involved in restraint had not received the relevant training.

The charity and campaigning group Mind reacted angrily to the news, saying that it highlighted “astounding failings in delivering even the most basic level of care”.

The report comes ahead of the release of a government consultation paper on the future of mental health services which is expected later this week.

Disquiet over standards in mental health services has been expressed repeatedly by a number of organisations, including Christian groups concerned with pastoral care.

“When a ward fails to provide a safe and secure place where people can receive good quality therapeutic treatment, the whole purpose of the ward is thrown into question” said Mind's chief executive, Paul Farmer, “They can become a place of neglect rather than recovery”.

He referred to understaffing and poor staff training as major problems in many wards, which carry potentially fatal consequences.

However, he suggested that “There are some shining examples of high quality in-patient care, where innovation and patient involvement ensures that a truly therapeutic service is delivered. The challenge is to make this a reality across the board."

The report is likely further to increase pressure on the government to address poor standards in mental health services.

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