Mental Unit Sex Assaults ‘Rife’

{mosimage}More than 100 woman were raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed in NHS mental units over two years, a study is believed to have found. The report was passed to the Department of Health eight months ago, and has yet to be published. However, the Times newspaper says it includes details of more than 10 rapes – at least three leading to pregnancy. Officials said the report was still being finalised, and it would be published as soon as it was complete.

But Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, demanded the report be published immediately – and a review set up to establish the full extent of the problem.

The information is believed to have been compiled by the National Learning and Reporting System – a monitoring programme set up by the National Patient Safety Agency in 2003.

Most of the reported incidents were said to have occurred in the 12 months up to October 2005.

The country’s 84 mental health trusts were among the last bodies to sign up to the system that is supposed to cover all healthcare organisations.

The report is said to include both patient-on-patient and staff-on-patient incidents. They ranged from men exposing themselves to women through to physical assaults and rape.

Mr Farmer described the findings as “extremely disturbing”. He said that with many safety incidents in the NHS going unreported, the actual picture could be much worse.

Mind has put in a Freedom of Information request calling on the government to issue the report immediately.

Mr Farmer said: “People who work inside the mental health sector, and outside the mental health sector, will be extremely shocked that this seems to be taking place. We are talking about very vulnerable people, who are in in-patient units to receive care and treatment for their mental health problems, being exposed to sexual assaults and rapes. We need a systematic review to find out what the true scale of this is. Is this the tip of the iceberg or is this the whole iceberg?”

Mr Farmer said his charity had heard that the rules stipulating that men and women were kept on separate wards in mental health units were “being bent”. This, he warned, could compromise patient safety.

The Department of Health refused to comment on the details of an unpublished report. However, in a statement it said work was needed to clarify some of the points in the report, and to ensure it accurately reflected the complete picture.

It also said it would expect all trusts to thoroughly investigate any allegations of sexual assault, and to involve the police where necessary.