Learning Disability Today
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Government announces rapid review into patient safety in mental health hospitals

Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes, has announced the commencement of a rapid review into patient safety in mental health inpatient settings in England.

The review comes following a series of scandals in which inpatients in mental health, learning disability and autism settings were mistreated while under hospital care.

One recent example of such abuse was at the Edenfield Centre in Manchester. The mental health hospital was one of the largest in the UK, and a BBC Panorama investigation exposed clear evidence of “corruption, perversion, aggression, hostility” and a “lack of boundaries”.

Staff were seen to swear at, slap and pinch patients, use restraint for unnecessary, inappropriate reasons, seclude patients for extended periods of time and fail to regularly carry out patient observations.

A separate investigation by Sky News also found a similar pattern of abuse at mental health units run by the Huntercombe Group. The investigation raised concerns from more than 50 former patients and staff at the units were found to overuse restrictive practice and leave patients at risk of self-harm.

The review will run alongside a three-year Quality Improvement programme

Ms Caulfield said: “This review is an essential first step in improving safety in mental health inpatient settings. It will focus on what data and evidence is currently available to healthcare services, including information provided by patients and families, and how we can use this data and evidence more effectively to identify patient safety risks and failures in care.”

The review will be chaired by Dr Geraldine Strathdee, who has spent 20 years working in senior roles in mental health policy, regulation and clinical management, at national and regional levels. Dr Strathdee is currently running the Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry, which is looking at inpatient mental health deaths in Essex between 2000 and 2020.

NHS England has also established a three-year Quality Improvement programme which seeks to tackle the root cause of unsafe, poor quality inpatient care in mental health, learning disability and autism settings.

“My officials will continue to work closely with their colleagues in NHS England to make sure the review is aligned with and complementary to the Quality Improvement programme,” Ms Caulfield said.

Review must be accompanied by adequate funding for mental health services

The review has been welcomed by mental health charities including Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, who have been long been calling for a statutory inquiry into the state of mental health settings in the UK.

However, the Chief Executive of Mind, Sarah Hughes, warns that the review alone will not go far enough, and the government will need to invest in mental health services if we are to see real change.

She said: “This review needs to gather information on the much deeper-set systemic failings in mental health care, and establish what works in successful mental health settings that provide therapeutic and safe care. But alone, this review will not be enough to fix the crisis in our mental health inpatient services.

“Once this review is concluded we will need to see the political leadership and willingness to invest in mental health to address the gaping holes in mental health care in England and Wales.”

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness added that the review will only succeed if “staff and leadership teams engage and people with relevant lived experience and their families are given the opportunity to contribute.”

“We hope this review is a landmark moment that leads to a significant improvement in the quality of care people receive, so they are kept safe, treated with dignity and have improved prospects of recovery. We are also mindful that reform of the Mental Health Act represents a great source of hope for improving patient safety and urge the government to rapidly bring forward proposed legislation,” he said.

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