Laura Sharman 23 July 2020

Unsafe mental health wards are a 'disaster waiting to happen'

Old and overcrowded mental health wards are putting patients at risk, new research has warned today.

Research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found a third of clinicians in England feel the quality of mental health buildings has compromised care for patients during the pandemic.

Nearly four out of ten psychiatrists (38%) also say the buildings are unsuitable for safely separating patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

As well as increasing the risk of infection, the research also argued 'unsafe' buildings have contributed to the deterioration of patients' mental health.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for £3.3bn of ring-fenced funding to improve mental health facilities at the next spending review.

Dr Michael Holland, medical director at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: 'Old and overcrowded buildings are simply not fit for infection control and the danger of cross infection is very high. Our patients are seriously mentally ill people who need to be treated in hospital, yet we were constantly having to make the judgement – where would it be safer for them to be? On a ward struggling to manage Covid cross infection or back at home where their mental state might get worse?

'Time and time again mental health has been completely left out of the hospital rebuilding programme. We can’t keep treating people with mental illness as second-class citizens.'

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