Mental health units 'unfit for purpose'

40% of facilities do not meet safety requirements, claims Care Quality Commission report

40% of NHS mental health facilities are ‘unsafe’, according to a scathing report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The warning comes after inspections carried out between 2014-2017, in which some 40% of NHS services and 39% of private psychiatric units were classed either as 'inadequate' or 'requiring improvement' when it came to safety.

Inspectors warned that patients are often treated on out-of-date wards, with insufficient staff and said there are too many blindspots within buildings where they can harm themselves or others.

And they said thousands of vulnerable people are being locked up for years in asylum-like units that 'have no place' in modern healthcare.

Some institutions, it was revealed, are still putting men and women in mixed-sex wards – a practice experts that should have been eliminated decades ago.

More than 50 years after the movement to close asylums and large institutions, we were concerned to find examples of outdated and sometimes institutionalised care

The Government has identified mental health care as a key priority, with Prime Minister, Theresa May, calling shortfalls in services a 'burning injustice'.

But the new report from the CQC, for which every single mental health provider in England was inspected, reveals the scale of the task.

Overall, 26% of NHS mental health services were rated as either ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’; 68% were classed as 'good'; and 6% as 'outstanding'. Private providers had similar results.

Services performed very strongly on how 'caring' they were, with 96% of NHS, and 98% of private institutions, classed as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. But they fell woefully short on safety.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said more people than ever are receiving mental health care, partly because of a reduction in the stigma associated with such conditions.

But, he added, this must be supported by services that give people the help they need.

His report is particularly damning about 'locked rehabilitation wards' and the numbers of patients in them.

The CQC found there were more than 3,500 beds across 248 locked mental health rehabilitation wards in England. About two thirds of these beds were managed by independent providers.

We know there is more work to do – this is why we have a five-year plan in place to ensure that transformation is under way centre

In 2015/16 the average length of stay for patients was 341 days, but for some it was up to five years.

The report said: “More than 50 years after the movement to close asylums and large institutions, we were concerned to find examples of outdated and sometimes institutionalised care.”

Claire Murdoch, NHS England's mental health chief, added: “We have already made huge steps forward – overall mental health funding is up by £1.4billion in real terms and 120,000 more people are getting specialist treatment than three years ago.

“We know there is more work to do – this is why we have a five-year plan in place to ensure that transformation is under way.”

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