Ministers have ordered an inquiry into the quality of care in mental health inpatient units in England after a series of scandals in which vulnerable patients were abused or neglected.
Maria Caulfield, the Minister for Mental Health, announced the establishment of a “rapid review” in a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons on Monday.
The survey “is a critical first step to improving safety in mental health settings,” she said. In recent years, coroners and the Care Quality Commission, the NHS care watchdog, have repeatedly raised concerns about the dangerously inadequate care hospitalized patients have received.
It will examine evidence of “risks to patient safety and failures of care” in units that hold and treat patients with serious illnesses, including psychosis and personality disorders. In particular, it will look at evidence of failures brought forward by patients and their families and how better use of data can help show that care has fallen below acceptable levels.
The investigation will be led by Dr Geraldine Strathdee, a psychiatrist who was the national clinical director for mental health at NHS England. She is likely to examine issues including patients subjected to controversial restraint techniques, left at risk of suicide and separated from other hospitalized patients, and the impact of their experiences on their recovery.
The investigation follows media revelations in recent years about how people with very fragile mental health in a number of units were abused and left at risk in often understaffed facilities. In the most recent case, last September the BBC’s Panorama program revealed that Edenfield Hospital staff taunted, slapped and pinched patients. Police said they would investigate the evidence.
Mental health charities have welcomed the move.
“The heartbreaking cases reported recently, combined with the dedicated campaign by families who have tragically lost loved ones whom they hoped to be safe and cared for in hospital, underscore the seriousness of the situation and the urgency with which standards must improve,” said Mark Winstanley. , the managing director of Rethink Mental Illness.
Strathdee is already chairwoman of a government-ordered non-statutory inquiry into around 2,000 potentially preventable deaths of mental health patients in Essex between 2000 and 2020. However, she told Health Secretary Steve Barclay the last week that she could not qualify for this investigation because only 11 of the 4,000 officers invited to testify chose to attend.
Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the charity Mind, called the survey “not positive”. He urged ministers to launch a full statutory inquiry into inpatient mental health care.
“This announcement follows deeply concerning reports over the past few months and even years from some patients and their loved ones of failings in mental health hospitals across the country.
“This review must gather information about much deeper systemic failures in mental health care and establish what works in well-performing mental health settings that provide therapeutic and safe care,” she added.