Chris Heginbotham’s commitment to the well-being and safety of mental health inpatients is sincere and I share some of his concerns, but I must set the record straight about the more alarming aspects of the impression created by his recent interview, writes Louis Appleby
In the interview (see ‘Mental health: the big issues’), Mr Heginbotham apparently presents as fact a figure of one rape a month in inpatient wards. The National Patient Safety Agency report cited 19 cases of alleged rape.
On investigation, we found that one case had led to a person being charged. In most other cases, there was significant doubt that an assault had occurred, and in the rest there was not enough information to reach a conclusion. Obviously, there is no acceptable number, but it helps no-one to exaggerate the danger, even inadvertently.
Our programme promoting race equality in experience of mental health services remains a top priority for me, but I simply do not understand Mr Heginbotham’s comparison of the ethnicity of the inpatient population with access to Herceptin. There is now considerable evidence of very high rates of severe mental illness among some black and minority ethnic communities, and I doubt he believes the NHS has control over that.
The situation is complex, but what services need to develop most is the way they reach out to minority communities, involve them and meet their needs with a full range of effective therapies.
Improving the inpatient environment is as important to me as it is to the Mental Health Act Commission and our main focus now is on offering trusts practical support. To that end, we have significantly increased capital investment in mental health services and we have made available another£190m to improve inpatient accommodation, including£30m to enhance safety on wards, especially for women.