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26.02.19

Major concerns remain over NHS-wide ‘unsafe’ mental health wards despite some improvements

The CQC remains concerned about the quality and safety of mental health wards across England despite seeing some improvement from trusts in planning for patients subject to the Mental Health Act.

After carrying out over 1,000 visits to mental health wards throughout 2017-18 and reviewing their care, the health inspectorate said that many of them are “unsafe and provide poor quality of care,” a concern raised in the State of Care report as the CQC’s greatest concern.

But despite “considerable room” for further progress, there has been an overall trend of improvement in the quality of care and care planning, it was reported.

Inspectors reported an overall improvement, finding that a higher proportion of care plans were detailed, comprehensive, and developed in collaboration with the patients and carers.

Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: “We are pleased to see an overall trend of improvement in the quality of care plans for people detained under the Mental Health Act.

“This is an achievement at a time of increased pressure on services and is in large part due to the dedication of frontline staff.”

“However, it is important that this does not mask the fact that many of the wards, in which people are detained under the Mental Health Act, are unsafe and provide poor quality care.”

The biggest concern found by the CQC from their Mental Health Act monitoring visits was regarding the safety of mental health wards – in particular acute wards for adults of working age.

The most frequently raised issues from visits were found to be the provision of information about legal rights to patients and relatives, and, in many cases, patients struggled to understand information given to them on admission because they are most ill at this point.

Lelliott added: “Based on previous evidence from CQC, the independent review of the Mental Health Act recommends that we revise the criteria used to assess the physical and social environments of mental health wards.

“We welcome this recommendation and will be looking at how we can work with partners to take this forward to ensure that mental health inpatient services are providing a fit environment for safe and dignified care.”

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