Serious incidents in mental healthcare highlight system’s crisis, charity says

Serious incidents are being reported every half an hour in mental healthcare settings in England, highlighting the “crisis” the system is in, the charity Mind has said.

Analysis of Care Quality Commission (CQC) data by Mind found there had been 17,340 serious incidents reported by mental healthcare staff from April 2022 to April 2023.

The figure equates to two an hour on average, the charity said.

These included instances in which patients died earlier than expected or almost died from injuries.

Some also obtained injuries that led to brain damage, long-term sensory issues or problems with movement.

There were also cases of abuse reported, included some which led to police involvement.

Dr Sarah Hughes (pictured), chief executive of Mind, said: “It is deeply worrying that healthcare staff across the country are so concerned about the situation in mental health settings that they are reporting a serious incident once every half an hour.

“We knew this was a crisis – now we know the scale of this crisis. People seek mental healthcare to get well, not to endure harm. Families are being let down by a system that’s supposed to protect their loved ones when they are most sick. The consequences can be and have been fatal.”

Some 15,254 incidents took place in private community and hospital settings, while 2,086 were related to NHS community and residential care.

The highest number of incidents in all settings took place in the North West of England (2,666), followed by the East Midlands (2,657).

Chris Dzikiti, director for mental health at the CQC, said: “Any incident in which a person has received poor care is unacceptable and we are absolutely committed to holding providers to account and making sure we take action where necessary to make sure that people are safe.

“Providers must tell us if an incident takes place which leads to harm. These incidents can range from death or major injury to incidents including pressure sores or damage to muscles or joints.

“We are working hard to drive improvement in mental health care and hold providers to account where this is not happening. Central to this is listening to the voices of people who receive care. This is absolutely vital to creating meaningful change.

“If anyone has any concerns about the care, they, or a loved one, has received they can let us know directly via Give Feedback on Care.”

Dr Hughes added: “Too many people are bearing the brunt of the crisis in mental health services, including those who are powerless within the system because they are detained for treatment. It is clear these failings are systemic.

“But it does not have to be this way – good mental health hospitals do exist, and people can be given a say in their treatment but proper care must be available across the board.”

Mind is calling on the Government to “raise the standard” and pass the Mental Health Bill before the next general election.

The Bill would reform the Mental Health Act and improve how people with autism and learning disabilities are treated in law.

“Politicians must not stand by and allow one more person to go through this suffering,” Dr Hughes added.

“They owe it to every family that is picking up the pieces of a broken system.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Any death in mental health care is a tragedy and we are clear that people receiving care should expect high quality, safe services.

“That’s why a series of national investigations into mental health inpatient care settings will soon be launched to identify where improvements are needed. This will help to increase the quality of care and safety standards.

“We also commissioned an independent rapid review into how we can improve the way data and evidence is used in mental health inpatient settings to identify risks to patient safety. We’ll respond to this review in due course.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2023, All Rights Reserved.  Picture (c) MIND.