More than 1,000 assaults reported on mixed-sex mental health wards

More than 1,000 sexual assaults have been reported on mixed-sex mental health wards since 2017, new data shows.

The figures, obtained by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), show there were at least 1,019 reports of sexual assaults between men and women from April 2017 to October 2019.

Although trusts report they meet guidelines on single-sex accommodation, men and women in mental health units still mix through sharing communal gardens, communal lounge areas, and passing through each other’s corridors to reach shared spaces.

The Freedom of Information data was provided by 47 mental health trusts out of a total 56.

Of the reports, 491 were considered serious enough to refer to safeguarding services, and 104 were reported to the police.

A Government-ordered review published in December 2018 and led by Sir Simon Wessely recommended that the Government “tighten” its definition of single-sex accommodation, to ensure wards were “genuinely” single sex.

A spokesman for the charity Mind said: “For many people, the reason they are being supported in a mental health setting is because they have experienced sexual assault.

“They should be able to expect that they won’t be re-traumatised by their environment. This is why these wards have no place in a modern healthcare system.

“It is also not good enough for wards to be meeting the technical definition of a single-sex space, knowing that people continue to be endangered.

“If national guidance does not offer sufficient protection for people, then services must go above and beyond it to sufficiently protect people when they may be at their most vulnerable.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it will publish a response to the Wessely review shortly.

A statement to the HSJ added: “Sexual abuse in the NHS will never be tolerated.

“We take every allegation of abuse extremely seriously and we expect every report of sexual assault on patients or staff to be immediately investigated by trusts.

“Men and women should not share hospital accommodation and we’ve cut mixed-sex accommodation breaches by over 85% since 2010.”

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