This morning the Care Quality commission published their annual report, ‘Monitoring the Mental Health Act 2016/7’. The report finds, once again, that too many patients who are detained under the Mental Health Act continue to experience care that does not fully protect their rights or ensure their wellbeing. Even worse, the report finds that, compared to previous years’ reports, the situation is not improving. Detentions made under the Mental Health Act continue to rise. The rate rose by 9% last year alone.
The report exposes a broken system. A system in which there is no evidence of patient involvement in 32% of patient care plans. A system in which there is no evidence of the consideration of the least restrictive options for care in 17% of cases. A system in which 24% of patient care plans contain no evidence of making a record of the plans for discharging patients back home following inpatient care, even though we know this is the period when suicide is most likely to occur.
I was appalled to read in the report about the case of one patient who has been waiting for over one year in long term segregation, unable to access the high secure bed that she desperately needs.
And more concerning again is the fact that many high secure beds are being occupied by patients who no longer require them. But medium secure services are operating at full capacity, preventing high secure patient services from stepping patients down. This means that vulnerable patients are being admitted to, or retained in, higher levels of physical security than is appropriate for their overall care.
If the government is serious about achieving parity of esteem for mental health they must act now
This is a contravention of the principle in the Mental Health Act Code of Practice to use the least restrictive hospital setting possible, and patients are suffering as a result.
Earlier today I raised my serious concerns in an Urgent Question to Jackie Doyle-Price, Minister for Health and Social Care, and asked her what action she would be taking to ensure that no patient in a mental health unit is deprived unnecessarily of their human rights.
The Minister assured me that she wants to ensure that “people have as much liberty and autonomy as possible.” Yet in the face of such atrocities, she deferred to a report that has not even been written yet and will not be published until the Autumn.
The report she refers to is the review of the Mental Health Act by Sir Simon Wessely. It is a welcome move, but it provides no reassurance or security to the patient in segregation for one year, and the hundreds more across the country today whose freedoms are being curtailed and whose wellbeing is not ensured.
We will be judged by how we treat the most vulnerable members of our society, and this report shows that we are still falling far short of even the most minimal expectations of respecting human rights. If the government is serious about achieving parity of esteem for mental health they must act now.
Luciana Berger is the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree and president of Labour’s Campaign for Mental Health