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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
Mental health care wards 'woeful'
Mental heath ward
More than a quarter of psychiatric patients said they rarely felt safe
Mental health patients are having to endure woeful conditions in psychiatric wards, according to research.

The mental health charity Mind found patients regularly suffered abuse and felt they were not treated with respect while in hospital.

Nearly a quarter of patients said they were treated in mixed-sex wards despite government claims that it was a rarity.

The report kicks-off a new campaign by Mind, Ward Watch, to improve hospital conditions for psychiatric patients.

Every year 37,996 people in England and Wales spend time in hospital with mental health problems.


The study of 416 current and recent mental health in-patients found 23% of respondents had been accommodated in mixed-sex wards.

Research has shown that mixed-sex wards compromise privacy, dignity and safety.

The national plan for NHS promised to abolish mixed-sex wards in all but 5% of health authority areas by 2002.

A Department of Health survey last year claimed 99% of NHS trusts had met the target.

Vulnerable people are being let down by the mental health services that they come to rely on, at a time when they need them most
Richard Brook, Mind chief executive

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More than a quarter, 27%, also said they rarely felt safe while in hospital. The figure increased to 46% for non-white British respondents.

Only one in five people felt they were treated with respect and dignity by hospital staff.

Some 51% reported being physically or verbally threatened during their hospital stay with one in five alleging physical assault.

And more than a half said their surroundings did not help their recovery.

In particular, the report said, staff were overstretched and hospitals relied too much on agency staff.

'Let down'

Mind chief executive Richard Brook said: "Vulnerable people are being let down by the mental health services that they come to rely on, at a time when they need them most.

"The government seems incapable of eliminating mixed-sex wards and in doing so it is failing to provide patients with the most basic levels of privacy and safety.

"Some staff undoubtedly provide exactly the excellent, sensitively delivered care and support that is required of them and Mind applauds this.

"However, many qualified staff are often over-stretched and under-resourced and there is an over-reliance on untrained agency staff."

He added poor staffing contributed to the miserable experience many reported.

"We mustn't forget after all that the hospital environment should help rather than hinder recovery."

The DoH said it stood by its claim that 99% of trusts did not have mixed-sex wards, saying the difference with the Mind results was because the charity polled only 4% of mental health patients.

But a spokesman added: "The government does agree that there are still many areas that can be improved and we appreciate that there are concerns over privacy and dignity.

"We want to work with Mind to ensure treatment improves for patients."

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25 Jul 04  |  Health

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