Crisis-hit mental units 'harm patients'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Mentally ill patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals are becoming sicker in wards which are so short of staff that only minimal treatment is offered, a survey has found.

Mentally ill patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals are becoming sicker in wards which are so short of staff that only minimal treatment is offered, a survey has found.

A critical shortage of staff and bed occupancy rates of 100 per cent mean most wards only offer treatment with powerful sedative drugs. Just one in five provides the psychological treatment, cognitive behaviour therapy.

The first national survey of in-patient mental health wards, commissioned by the National Institute for Mental Health and published by the Sainsbury Centre, paints a bleak picture of an overstretched, under-resourced service. It is based on the views of managers in 50 English NHS trusts, who could be expected to paint the service in the best possible light. Patient surveys suggest the service is even worse.

The findings come a day after the Healthcare Commission, the NHS watchdog, reported that one in three patients on mental health wards had experienced violent or threatening behaviour, mostly from other patients. Nearly half of medical staff and four out of five nurses also said they had been verbally or physically assaulted.

Nearly half of the wards had no consultant psychiatrist in charge and one in seven had no ward manager. One in seven nurse posts was vacant.

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