Overcrowding and violence found on wards, says regulator’s review

The Healthcare Commission has criticised the standard of care, safety and access to treatment in mental health services across England and Wales, in its annual review of healthcare.

It found overcrowding and violence on mental health wards, a lack of joint work between health and social care and poor access to talking therapies.

While it praised improvements in community mental health services, the commission found that patients were not always
treated according to clinical guidance.

More than four in 10 patients with schizophrenia, including 70 per cent in one trust, were prescribed more than one type
of antipsychotic medication, against recommended standards.

And more than one-third of inpatients on anti-psychotic drugs were prescribed more than recommended levels, it found.

The report also criticised “very poor standards of cleanliness” in many mental health wards, with wards for older people found to be particularly bad.

Weak links between hospitals and other providers of health and social care in some areas meant support was not always available for people when they left hospital, the report added.

Mental health charity Rethink’s public affairs director Paul Corry (pictured left) said there were rising standards in particular areas but this was not happening across all services.

He added: “The report is a clear warning that the government cannot take its foot off the investment pedal now or in 2008 when the comprehensive spending review is due to slam on the brakes in health.”

The commission also reported problems with the care provided to people with learning difficulties, care leavers, disabled children and children with mental health problems.

Report’s other findings
● Many older patients have not been treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
● Adolescents can “fall through the gap” between children’s and adults’ services.
● Staff did not always have the skills to provide people with learning difficulties with the help they needed with activities such as
eating or bathing.

Annual State of Healthcare 2006

Contact the author
 Simeon Brody


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