One third of adults say they do not have confidence that a relative would be safe under hospital mental health care, a survey by Mind has found
“Mental health hospitals are at breaking point, public trust has been decimated, and we need immediate political action. But it does not have to be this way – good mental health hospitals do exist, but proper care must be available across the board.” Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive, Mind
The mental health charity Mind is calling for the government to set up a public inquiry into “systemic failings” at mental health hospitals in England.
The charity has launched a campaign called Raise the Standard, and argues that a full statutory inquiry is the first step to resolving widespread failings in mental health care across the country. Mind argues that NHS mental health facilities are “at breaking point” and that patients’ human rights are being violated. Examples include patients being “wrongly restrained” in “run-down, understaffed” mental health wards.
Figures from Mind show that 24,000 adults and 1,200 children are inpatients at mental health units in England. A YouGov survey of 2,014 adults carried out on behalf of the charity found that 35% of people did not have confidence that a loved one would be safe under hospital mental healthcare, while 32% did not feel confident that mental health facilities would treat their loved one with respect. More than two-thirds (68%) believed the government should be doing more to protect patients from unsafe care.
Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive of Mind, said: “One case of abuse, neglect or unsafe care is too many. People are suffering because of the shocking state of care in mental health hospitals. People should go to hospital to get well, not to endure harm. This is wholly unacceptable and must be addressed urgently.”
Hughes added: “Mental health hospitals are at breaking point, public trust has been decimated, and we need immediate political action. But it does not have to be this way – good mental health hospitals do exist, but proper care must be available across the board.”
There have been several hospitals where patients have complained of failings in mental health care. Taplow Manor mental health hospital in Berkshire is closing after reports of staff overusing restraints and medication on patients. Police are also investigating a death of a former patient, as well as an allegation of child rape involving staff.
Three teenage girls took their own lives after major failings in their care at NHS mental health facilities across Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys in 2019. The patients, who all had complex mental health problems and had been receiving NHS care for years, died within eight months of each other.
One of the hospitals involved, West Lane, in Middlesbrough, closed in 2019 after two of the deaths, but has since been reopened under a new name and a different NHS trust.
At West Park Hospital in Darlington, also part of Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust, patients have claimed that they have been failed by the mental health provision. The family of Matthew Gale, 37, who died in March after leaving West Park Hospital, where he was being treated for mental health problems, claimed the treatment had contributed to his death. They said the “incompetent and compassionless care” contributed to his mental health struggles and pushed him to take his own life.
Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, has backed Mind’s campaign, saying: “Patients, family members and staff all deserve to know that the facilities provided by the mental health facilities are fit for purpose and working in the best interests of those using the service.”
Hughes said: “Politicians must not stand by and allow one more person to go through this suffering. They owe it to every family that is picking up the pieces of a broken system.”
Mental health minister Maria Caulfield said that the government was in the process of improving mental health services in England and was about to publish the findings of an independent rapid review focusing on the way data and evidence are used, including complaints and whistleblowing alerts, to identify patient safety risks and failures in care.
Mind is right to draw attention to the widespread failings at mental health hospitals. The very least patients should expect from hospital care is to feel safe, and it seems some hospitals are not even meeting this basic standard. We support Mind’s call for a public enquiry, which we hope would lead to an overhaul of the way mental health settings are managed and regulated in England.