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More than a third of adults lack confidence in mental health hospitals after string of scandals

Tuesday, 20 June 2023 Mind

More than 1 in 3 British adults (35%) say they don’t have confidence that a loved one would be safe if they needed hospital mental healthcare, according to new research by YouGov on behalf of Mind.

A third also say they are not confident that a mental health hospital would treat their loved one with respect (32%) or compassion (34%).

The finding comes following a string of abuse scandals in mental health hospitals.

Recent cases include:

  • the Essex partnership university NHS foundation trust, where more than 2,000 people died over a 21-year period, and misuse of restraint, staff falling asleep and ligature points were exposed.
  • the Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal near Stockport, where Beth Matthews, 26, Lauren Bridges, 20, and Deseree Fitzpatrick, 30, took their lives.
  • Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead, where there have been more than 1,600 sexual safety incidents in four years.

Almost nine in 10 (86%) who have seen recent news stories about mental health hospitals say they feel worried, sad, angry, or frightened about the situation.

The research comes as the UK’s largest mental health charity, Mind, launches its Raise the Standard campaign, calling on the UK government to launch a statutory public inquiry into systemic failings in mental health hospitals.

The research also showed the public’s concern about political inaction on the issue, with more than two thirds (68%) of British adults saying they think the UK government should be doing more to protect patients from unsafe care. Only 1 in 10 (11%) believe the government is doing enough to protect people in mental health hospitals from abuse.

Currently, more than 1,200 children and 24,000 adults are inpatients in mental health hospitals in England. According to latest NHS data, the number of under 18-year-olds being given an emergency referral to a crisis team is at its highest since before the pandemic. While some investment has been made in services, far more is required to tackle the significant unmet need.

Responding to the findings, 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.

“Families are being let down by a system that’s supposed to protect their loved ones when they are at their most unwell. Patients’ human rights are being violated as they are left to cope on run-down, understaffed wards, wrongly restrained and put in seclusion. The consequences can be and have been fatal.

“Too many people are bearing the brunt of the crisis in mental health services, as decades of underfunding take their toll. It is clear these failings are systemic.

“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.

“It is time to raise the standard. As a first step, the Government must launch a full public statutory inquiry into these failings. 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.”

Katie Wilson, 45, from Berkshire, has bipolar disorder and was diagnosed after trying to take her own life. She has been hospitalised six times for mental health treatment. She said:

“I’ve been in and out of hospital and the treatment you get is very poor, especially if you get admitted at the weekend, then you’re really in trouble. I just feel like you’re left shuffling around with really no help at all.

“When people are mentally unwell, they really need attention. It felt like unless you present really extreme physical symptoms in front of the staff, you’re invisible to them and this makes it really dangerous for people who need attention.

“I saw people constantly being manhandled by staff, where you could quite clearly see that it could have been de-escalated through other means, such as talking to them and making them feel safe.”

The number of people visiting Mind’s website for information and support relating to being sectioned in mental health hospitals has significantly increased, with nearly one million views in the last year alone. Visits reached a record high of 95,000 in March this year, up 15% from the year before.

You can find out more about Mind’s Raise the Standard inpatient campaign.


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