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The BBC's Jackie Rowley
"Psychiatric illness has, in the past, come low down the list of priorities"
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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
30m to revamp mental health wards

The cash will improve conditions for the mentally ill
A 30m scheme to modernise hospital wards for the mentally ill in England has been announced by the government.

Health minister John Hutton said the two-year investment programme would ensure better wards and conditions for psychiatric patients, and an end to mixed sex wards.

The government admitted that many psychiatric wards were in a poor state of repair and desperately in need of a revamp.

They said some wards were not even designed to provide patients with the basic safety, privacy and dignity standards.

The cash will include:

  • 500,000 for Portsmouth Healthcare Trust, in Hampshire, to allow them to upgrade sleeping arrangements and tackle worries over lack of privacy and dignity, and poor lighting
  • 107,000 for St Helens and Knowsley Trust, in Merseyside, to increase safety and security
  • 175,000 for Haringey's mental health trust, in London, to provide separate washing and toilet facilities for male and female patients and full redecoration of the wards.

However Mr Hutton, whose announcement comes on World Health Day, which this year focuses on mental health, said it was time for mental health services to get a cash investment.

I am delighted that the poor physical environment of some of the psychiatric wards can be addressed

Professor Louis Appleby, mental health Tsar

He said: "The 30m investment will ensure that patients are treated in more therapeutic and modern settings and demonstrates this government's commitment to in-patient mental health care.

"Improving the wards will also help improve the public image and perception of mental health services - and that will help break down the stigma that currently exists."

Professor Louis Appleby, mental health "czar", said the cash investment was much needed for mental health and should help cut suicide rates.

A recent report found that four out of every 10 suicides among the mentally ill occurred while they were in hospital or shortly after their release.

'Step forward'

Prof Appleby said: "I am delighted that the poor physical environment of some of the psychiatric wards can be addressed.

"Access to care in decent surroundings is an important part of a comprehensive mental health service.

Health Minister John Hutton
John Hutton: "The investment will help ensure better care for patients"
"This initiative will go a long way towards improving the experience of those who need in-patient care.

"The improvement of the wards will not only aid general therapy, but also address issues regarding mixed sex facilities and suicide prevention measures."

Marjorie Wallace,chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said the announcement was a great step forward.

She said: "This is the single most important pledge this government has made to improve the outlook for people with mental illness.

"There is no excuse for the kinds of conditions our callers describe: wards like battlefields, demoralised staff, patients living in squalor with little or no activity, and often being discharged too early, without the time or space to recover.

"We have paid a heavy price for the over-optimistic implementation of care in the community and the failure to ensure that monies from the closure of institutions went back into mental health, depriving people with mental illness a place of refuge and dignity."

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12 Mar 01 | Health
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