1 in 5 mental health patients don’t feel safe in NHS care, Ombudsman finds
A new survey published yesterday by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman found that one in five people did not feel safe while in the care of the NHS mental health service that treated them.
Over half of people with mental health problems in England also said they experienced delays to their treatment, while four in ten (42%) said that they waited too long to be diagnosed.
When asked to share details of their experiences, one survey participant said that after they attempted to take their own life, they had to wait over six months to be referred to a specialist mental health team. Another said they felt they had been ‘talked over and about, not to’.
Despite the concerns raised by patients about their treatment in the survey, almost half (48%) said they would be unlikely to complain if they were unhappy with the service provided. Almost 70% of people said they had not been told how to complain by NHS staff.
Concerningly, one in three people (32%) said they did not think their complaint would be taken seriously while a quarter were worried complaining would affect how they were treated. The main reason given (40%) was that they would not want ‘to cause trouble’.
Ombudsman Rob Behrens yesterday said:
'It’s unacceptable that so many patients requiring mental health treatment are left feeling unsafe in the NHS but this survey supports what we see too frequently in our casework. Patients must be supported to speak up when mistakes happen and not left scared that their treatment will be affected if they do so.
‘While the NHS in England must continue to implement its Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, it should also look now at what more is needed to transform mental health services so the people who need them get the care they deserve.’
A real impact on patients
Yesterday’s survey results are reinforced by the tragic case of Erica Henderson who took her own life when she was an inpatient at 2gether NHS Foundation Trust. She was being treated for schizophrenia and epilepsy at the mental health trust and Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, but was not observed regularly enough, despite having made several attempts to take her own life.
Even though she told staff at the mental health trust that her frequent epileptic seizures were contributing to her desire to self-harm, the significant risks to her safety were not properly managed. The Ombudsman found that both trusts failed to provide Miss Henderson with the care she needed, with tragic results.
In response to the Ombudsman’s findings, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust is putting in place steps to make sure its risk assessment and safety management procedures meet national guidance and has committed to ensure observations are embedded in its practice. Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is also reviewing the management of Miss Henderson’s medication when she became an inpatient for her worsening epilepsy to identify the full learning from this case.
Mrs Saleeb-Mousa, Miss Henderson’s sister, said:
'Failures by the Trusts led to the death of my dearest twin sister, who would not have died if her seizures and mental health issues had been properly addressed.
'Nobody should suffer like that. I complained to the Ombudsman so that other people will never have to go through what she did.’
The YouGov survey, commissioned by the Ombudsman, also comes almost two years after the Ombudsman’s Maintaining Momentum report. The survey results suggest that people accessing treatment for mental health problems in England are continuing to experience the five service failings identified in the report:
- Failure to diagnose and/or treat the patient
- Poor risk assessment and safety practices
- Not treating patients with dignity and/or infringing human rights
- Poor communication with the patient and/or their family or carers
- Inappropriate hospital discharge and aftercare of the patient
It also follows the publication of the Ombudsman’s Missed Opportunities report in summer 2019 into the deaths of two vulnerable young men and the significant failings in their mental health care and treatment.
The Ombudsman will shortly be publishing its first annual casework report, which will include some further cases about mental health services that we closed in 2019.
Download the results of our Mental Health survey [.xlsx 43 KB]
Latest News from
Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill laid in Parliament05/12/2016 12:37:21
A new complaints body will provide the public with greater confidence that their voices have been heard.
Homeless Haringey family left in bed and breakfast accommodation because of council errors09/07/2020 14:15:00
A Haringey mother of six has been living in bed and breakfast accommodation since February 2020 because her local council did not do enough to prevent her from becoming homeless, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
Norfolk council agrees to rigorous scrutiny of services for children with Special Educational Needs03/07/2020 09:15:00
Councillors in Norfolk will be provided with regular detailed analysis of the county council’s special educational needs services following a critical Ombudsman report.
The UK’s national Ombudsman calls on Government to learn from Covid-19 mistakes02/07/2020 14:15:00
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is calling on the UK Government to give clarity about its plans for a robust and independent lessons-learned exercise into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ombudsman to resume taking new complaints online26/06/2020 16:38:00
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman will be resuming all existing casework and taking on new complaints through its website from next week (29th).
Ombudsman criticises Warwick planners following loss of bat habitat26/06/2020 14:15:00
Warwick District Council is to pay a local wildlife group £1,000 and provide new hibernation boxes for bats after it failed to properly consider the impact a development might have on local wildlife when it approved a planning application, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.
Ombudsman issues guidance to councils and care providers05/05/2020 09:15:00
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman yesterday (Monday) issued guidance to those working for local authorities and care providers about good administrative practice and handling complaints during the Covid-19 crisis.
LGSCO suspends complaints enquiries of councils and care providers27/03/2020 09:15:00
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has suspended all casework activity that demands information from, or action by, local authorities and care providers, in light of the current Coronavirus outbreak.
Trafford Council agrees to review way it monitors missed bin collections following Ombudsman investigation20/03/2020 14:10:00
Trafford Council will now change the way it investigates missed bin collections after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman upheld a number of complaints about the authority.