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Saturday 20th January 2018

Mental health patients neglected and forgotten

20th July 2009
  • 39% of suicides by hanging took place when the patient was supposed to be subject to observation by staff
  • 30% of wards were running at more than 100% occupancy
  • Some staff who might be engaged in restraint practices had no training
  • On many wards low level harassment was the norm

A shocking report from the Mental Health Act Commission released today (Sunday 19 July) reveals the shameful conditions of many of our mental health wards where poor practice is entrenched, staff are overstretched and often lack the basic skills to prevent tragedies occurring.

Leading mental health charity Mind was alarmed to learn that almost 40 per cent of suicides by hanging took place while patients were supposed to be subject to staff observation. In one appalling case, a patient found hanging was already showing signs of rigor mortis when discovered, despite supposedly being subject to staff observation every 15 minutes.

Mind's Chief Executive Paul Farmer said: "This report highlights some astounding failings in delivering even the most basic level of 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. They can become a place of neglect rather than recovery."

"It's clear that staff on some wards are stretched to the limit, so much so that it makes patient observation a physical impossibility. There is also a worrying lack of basic training, particularly with restraint procedures, jeopardising patient safety with potentially fatal consequences."  

"But it would be wrong to suggest that all wards are performing poorly. There are some shining examples of high quality inpatient 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."

"Later this week the Government will publish New Horizons, its consultation document on the future of mental health services for the next decade and central to this must be a commitment to make quality inpatient care a reality for all who need it. In addition, the new Care Quality Commission must use all its powers to stamp out poor practice and promote the highest levels of safety and care.


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