Government’s mental health review will not prevent ‘appalling’ abuse of patients, campaigners warn

Review will focus on data analysis rather than individuals

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 14 February 2023 19:39 GMT
The inquiry was launched after The Independent uncovered systemic abuse at children’s mental health hospitals
The inquiry was launched after The Independent uncovered systemic abuse at children’s mental health hospitals (Getty Images)

A government review into mental health hospitals will fail to prevent the “appalling” treatment of patients, campaigners have warned.

The urgent inquiry into inpatient mental health services will focus solely on data, the government said on Tuesday.

The “rapid review”, launched following investigations by The Independent into “systemic abuse” across a group of children’s mental health hospitals, will last 12 weeks and is being led by a former national NHS mental health director Dr Geraldine Strathdee.

In an outline of what it will cover, the Department for Health and Social Care said it would look at what data is collected by the NHS on inpatient mental health services and whether it is used effectively to identify patient safety problems.

It will also look at the quality of data and identify good examples of care but it won’t look at individual cases of abuse or community services.

Major mental health charity Mind has warned the review “is not enough” and will not provide any learnings on how to prevent poor care.

The charity is instead calling for a national statutory public inquiry into inpatient mental health services.

Last year, more than 50 patients came forward with allegations of poor care and “systemic abuse” at children’s hospitals run by The Huntercombe Group in a series of investigations by The Independent and Sky News.

Following the reports, leading charities, including Mind, called for a public inquiry.

Dr Strathdee was earlier chosen to lead a review into deaths across mental health services in Essex, but recused herself before taking on the national review.

Patient campaigners and MPs have previously called for the Essex review to be converted into a statutory public inquiry.

Gemma Byrne, head of health, policy and campaigns at Mind, said: “The UK government’s rapid review, if carried out effectively, has the potential to provide invaluable information on how failures in mental health inpatient settings can be better identified.

WHowever, what it seems this review will not provide is learnings on how the UK government and NHS can prevent appalling treatment from happening in the future and urgently address the poor treatment still going on today. Identifying problems is not enough – we need prevention and solutions.

“Anyone that goes into hospital for their mental health deserves to receive safe, compassionate and therapeutic care, but this is far from what is currently being delivered.

WTo get to that point, we need to see widespread systemic change across inpatient mental health care. The UK government’s rapid review is a step in the right direction, but there’s a long way to go.

“We need the UK government to launch a full statutory inquiry into failings in inpatient mental health services where the voices of people with lived experience and their loved ones are heard and essential systemic changes are identified.

“This needs to go hand in hand with the overdue long-term investment mental health services need to deliver these changes.”

Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow mental health secretary, told the Independent the “very least” patients deserve, is to be safe in inpatient mental health units.

“Labour has long been calling for a rapid review of these services, following numerous failures in mental health inpatient settings,” she said.

“I’m glad the Government is starting to listen, but patient voices must be at the centre of any review. As it stands, the Government’s review will be limited, only considering existing data. Patients deserve better – we need solutions.”

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This review will focus on the data and evidence currently available to healthcare services, including information provided by patients and families, and how we can use this more effectively to identify patient safety risks and failures in care.”

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