Patient safety in mental health wards to be improved

The government is to spend £30m to improve patient safety in mental health wards, particularly the sexual safety of women, health minister Rosie Winterton announced yesterday.

The funding, which will be made available in 2007-8, follows long-standing calls for the eradication of mixed-sex wards, and was welcomed by charities Mind and the Mental Health Foundation.

The Department of Health also promised greater support for patients in reporting incidents and guidance to help trusts ensure safety incidents are managed appropriately.

The package responds to a National Patient Safety Agency report in July, which documented over 120 sexual incidents on wards between from November 2003 to September 2005.

However, a Community Care survey  based on freedom of information requests from 44 of 70 mental health trusts found over 300 incidents from 2003 to 2006, suggesting the NPSA’s figures were an underestimate.

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