Many mental health patients in England are being let down on central aspects of hospital care, a survey by the Care Quality Commission has revealed.

The first ever national survey of mental health inpatient services, published today, shows that while patients are happy with some aspects of hospital care, they have significant concerns over the quality of service provided in many areas.

These are shocking figures. If they were applied to people receiving treatment for diabetes, cancer or heart disease there would be a national outcry

The survey of more than 7,500 people recently discharged from 64 trusts highlighted particular issues around patient safety, medication, and access to counselling.

Fewer than half of the patients surveyed said they “always” felt safe on the ward, with 16 per cent saying they “did not feel safe at all”.

There was also limited access to talking therapies, such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and anxiety management. Fewer than half of the 52 per cent of patients who wanted talking therapies actually received any.

The survey also revealed significant problems with medication. Of 95 per cent of patients who were prescribed medication, almost a quarter said its purpose was not explained in a way they understood.

Additionally, 48 per cent of patients said the potential side effects of medicines that were prescribed to them while in hospital were not explained in a way they could understand.

CQC chair Barbara Young said it was “not acceptable” for people to feel unsafe in hospital, or for them not to receive basic information about their care and treatment.

“This survey shows us that there is considerable room for improvement in patients’ experiences of acute mental health services, and that there remains a particular need to ensure that services are focused on meeting the needs of people as individuals,” she said.

“We will be writing to all the trusts covered by the survey to underline the findings.”

The survey results have prompted the mental health charity Rethink to call for “renewed political commitment to mental health investment and reform”.

Rethink director of public affairs Paul Corry said: “These are shocking figures. If they were applied to people receiving treatment for diabetes, cancer or heart disease there would be a national outcry.”

However, care services minister Phil Hope said it is “important to remember that nearly half the people who responded to this survey had been detained under the mental health act and had severe mental health problems, which may have affected how safe they felt.”