Hospital Dr News

CQC says sexual incidents “commonplace” in under-resourced NHS mental health units

Sexual incidents including harassment, assaults and rapes are “commonplace” in mental health units.

That’s the conclusion of a CQC report that found a total of 1,120 sexual incidents – 65 a week – occurred on mental health wards in England during April, May and June.

Patients were responsible for the behaviour outlined in 95% of the cases, with the other 5% involving staff.

Lack of staff was an important factor in some of the incidents, the CQC said. They took place in communal areas, patients’ rooms, toilets, bathrooms, gardens and other areas with staff on duty.

Commenting on the findings, Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, said:

“It is important that providers of mental health services have the resources they need to safely staff and manage services – the long-term plan and financial settlement is an opportunity to ensure mental health has the funding that is needed.”

The figures included 29 alleged rapes. Another 457 incidents, more than a third of the total, involved sexual assault or sexual harassment of patients or staff.

Other cases involved patients exposing themselves, using sexual words when verbally abusing someone and having sex when it was unclear if they had the mental capacity to decide to do so.

“Sexual incidents are … commonplace on mental health wards,” said Dr Paul Lelliott, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health.

“People who have used services [have] described the distress they experience when other patients speak to them using sexualised language or when they observe other patients behave in a sexually disinhibited manner due to their mental ill-health.

“Some told us that they had received unwanted sexual advances from other people or that they have engaged in sexual acts when mentally unwell that they have regretted afterwards.”

Duggan added that people are admitted to mental health wards at their most vulnerable and “they have a right to feel safe”.

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