Official figures on mental health sexual assault claims do not add up

A Community Care investigation has cast doubt on the reliability of figures published this week in a government report on alleged sexual assaults within psychiatric wards.

A report by the National Patient Safety Agency said there were at least 122 sexual incidents, including 11 alleged rapes by staff, from November 2003 to September 2005.

But there were more than 300 allegations recorded from 2003 to 2006 by 44 of England’s 70 mental health trusts who responded to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Community Care.

Of those, 107 psychiatric patients made an allegation against a member of staff, while 224 said another patient had assaulted them.

This points to more widespread problems than indicated by the NPSA study, which also included information from combined trusts in Wales and from more of England’s specialist mental health trusts.

Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust had the highest number of patient-against-patient allegations.

However, its procedures were highlighted as good practice in the NPSA report.

Buckinghamshire Mental Health Care Trust – now Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust – had the third highest number.

In a statement, it said some service users had made more than one allegation about the same incident, and that it was also looking to develop a female-only in-patient unit.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: “Community Care’s disturbing research reinforces the NPSA report’s message of an unacceptable level of sexual abuse in mental healthcare.

“We must have a reliable and comprehensive reporting system that can give us an accurate, annual picture of the levels of sexual abuse in mental healthcare.”

Mental health tsar Louis Appleby has launched a review into the most serious allegations and will ask every mental health trust to review their procedures on patient safety.

The government published the NPSA report after it was leaked to the press (Mind adds to fears over true number of sexual assaults in service units).

  • With Safety in Mind: Patient Safety in Mental Health Services

    Most allegations by patients against patients
    Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust
    20 Bolton, Salford and Trafford Mental Health NHS Trust
    16 Buckinghamshire Mental Health Care Trust

    Most allegations by patients against staff
    Leeds Mental Health Teaching NHS Trust
    13 Lancashire Care NHS Trust
    9 Devon Partnership NHS Trust

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