Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Troubled mental health trust symptomatic of failings nationwide

A damning report from the Care Quality Commission today (Tuesday 21 July) has found multiple failings in inpatient care for patients at West London Mental Health Trust, ranging from sub-standard buildings, overcrowding, lack of staff and insufficient staff training, to failure to implement changes that could help prevent suicides on wards. In some areas, there were long delays in considering changes to help reduce suicide risk, and on one inpatient unit, bed occupancy was regularly running at over 110 per cent, resulting in patients sleeping on sofas due to lack of beds.

The report is hot on the heels of the Mental Health Act Commission's final report into inpatient care (1), which found basic inadequacies in staffing, training, ward conditions and patient safety across the country.

In response to today's report, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

"The failures at West London Mental Health Trust are not isolated incidents, but are symptomatic of failings across the country in the way that mental health inpatients are treated.

"Patients sleeping on sofas due to bed shortages is completely unacceptable, and would never be tolerated on wards in general hospitals. The very minimum conditions for inpatient hospital care should start with a bed for the night, inside buildings that are fit for purpose, with enough trained staff to provide decent levels of care.

"Most alarming was the Trust's response to suicide on wards. Delays, bureaucracy and failure to learn from past mistakes are putting patients' lives at risk. There can be no excuse for these serious failings.

"Although there are some excellent inpatient wards, in many areas poor practice has become entrenched, and conditions that should be considered unacceptable have become the norm. As the government launches New Horizons this week, its consultation on the future of mental health care, we hope that bringing conditions on inpatient wards into the 21st century will be a top priority."

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