Government announces new national investigation into mental health inpatient care settings

Press release
29 June 2023

Yesterday the Secretary of State of Health and Social Care announced in October that a new Health Services Safety Investigations Body will be formally established and will commence a national investigation into mental health inpatient care settings.

Separately, findings of an independent rapid review into mental health inpatient settings have also been published by the government.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:

“We welcome yesterday's announcement of a national investigation into mental health inpatient services, by the new Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB). Families should never have to worry about the safety of their loved ones while they are admitted to mental health units. In finalising the investigation’s Terms of Reference, we would expect for a broad remit that enables all of the factors that contribute to patient safety and quality of care to be identified. This must include local and systemwide issues, as this will ensure the investigation can deliver positive, long term, improvements to patient care.

“We are particularly pleased the investigation will focus on how out of area placements are managed. It is over two years since Government pledged to stop sending mental health patients long distances for vital inpatient treatment. Since then, there have been almost 9,000 new inappropriate out of area placements. Sending patients with acute mental health needs hundreds of miles away from home can have a devastating impact. We call again for an end to this unacceptable practice.

“We thank Dr Geraldine Strathdee for her vital review into how data can be used to improve patient safety in mental health inpatient units in England. We hope the findings and recommendations from her work lead to lasting change in how data is used. This will ensure all patients are treated with dignity and respect, and receive high-quality, effective and safe care. We call on Government to implement the review’s recommendations within 12 months.

“Dr Strathdee is right to recommend ICSs develop plans for ensuring mental health facilities are fit for purpose. Many mental health buildings remain unfit for purpose and continue to deteriorate, negatively impacting the care patients receive. However, none of the review’s recommendations will be successfully implemented unless there is meaningful investment in mental health services and the mental health workforce in the long and short term.

“To ensure the safety of patients and staff in the long-term, we are ready to work with all stakeholders to bring about lasting improvement in the culture in mental health services.”

Find out more about how the College campaigns for better mental health policy.

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