One in four sexual incidents in mental health trusts is classed as an assault or harassment, a report has revealed.
In an analysis of 60,000 incidents that took place on NHS mental health wards between April and June 2017, the CQC found that 1,120 were categorised as sexual incidents. These included 273 sexual assaults and 184 sexual harassments of both patients and staff, representing 41% of sexual incidents overall.
‘Common place’ incidents
CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals Dr Paul Lelliott said that sexual incidents are ‘common-place’ on mental health wards and can cause great distress to those affected.
He added: ‘[…] We’re working with partners to highlight this issue and make recommendations to improve sexual safety on mental health wards. Patients and staff must feel confident that any concerns will be followed up quickly and effectively and the appropriate action taken.
‘Staff on mental health wards must work together with the police and local authority safeguarding teams to help ensure that people accessing mental health services are kept safe from sexual harm at what is a very vulnerable time in their lives.’
The CQC has previously expressed concern about the high number of incidences of violence towards both patients and staff on mental health wards, describing them as ‘high-risk’ environments.
In July, it found that safety was an area in which services are ‘most likely to perform poorly’, with only 59% of NHS core services and 61% of independent mental health core services rated as good.
According to the CQC, the high demand for mental health care has been accompanied by a ‘steady decline’ in the number of NHS mental health nurses.
In July it revealed that from January 2010 to January 2017, the number of full-time equivalent psychiatry nurses fell by 12% – from 40,719 to 35,845.
Responding to the report, NHS Providers deputy director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin said that the workforce shortages must be addressed as a matter of the ‘utmost urgency.’
‘The safety and dignity of people who need care, and of the staff who deliver it, is an absolute priority for NHS trusts,’ Ms Deakin added.
‘The review findings reinforce the importance of ensuring that funding earmarked for mental health gets through to frontline services to enable trusts to manage rising pressures on local services.’