Mind casts doubts on government claims of ending mixed-sex wards

Almost one in four mental health in-patients are sleeping on
mixed-sex wards, despite government claims to have almost
eradicated the practice, according to mental health charity

In a survey of 416 current or recent psychiatric in-patients, 23
per cent said they had been accommodated in mixed-sex wards without
private bedrooms.

In addition, almost a third did not have access to a single-sex
bathroom or daytime facilities.

Last December, health minister Rosie Winterton announced that 99
per cent of all NHS trusts were providing single-sex wards for
patients with planned admissions.

But Mind said its survey showed that the government took a
“tick-box approach” to enforcing national minimum standards.

More than a quarter of those surveyed said they rarely felt safe in
hospital, and almost one in three felt that the environment they
had to live in actually made their illness worse – a situation
condemned by Mind as “appalling and absurd”.

Incidents reported included being left in bedrooms with broken
windows, having their room urinated in as they slept, or being
dragged upstairs by nurses after being sick. Many patients said
they had been bored in hospital. One complained that “smoking and
television” were the only therapies on offer.

More than half had been threatened in hospital and 20 per cent
reported actual assault. There were high rates of racial,
homophobic and – in particular – sexual harassment, which in a
third of cases were alleged to have been by members of staff. Only
one in five felt they had been treated with dignity and respect by

Mind said NHS trusts varied widely on the management of violent
behaviour, with some insisting upon zero tolerance while others
accepted it as the norm. Fewer than half the patients had reported
incidents to staff and only 11 per cent were satisfied with the
action that staff took.

The Department of Health, however, insisted that its standards were
properly checked and criticised Mind’s survey as unrepresentative.

A spokesperson said that guidance had recently been published on
improving safety, privacy and dignity of mental health patients and
that more had been commissioned on the short-term management of
disturbed or violent patients.

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