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TX: 24.05.05 - Mental Health Ward Survey

PRESENTER: LIZ BARCLAY
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THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

BARCLAY
The first ever national survey of mental health wards has found a worrying shortage of staff and a lack of psychotherapies on offer. The study commissioned by the National Institute for Mental Health looked at 300 wards throughout England, it found that nearly half don't have a lead consultant psychiatrist, many can't offer the services of a psychologist and some treatments like cognitive behaviour therapy are only available in a fifth of the wards. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, the charity which carried out the report, published tomorrow, says the mental health system is in urgent need of attention. Angela Greatley is its chief executive. Angela, what do we mean, first of all, by acute mental health wards?

GREATLEY
When people have got mental health problems, mental illnesses, most of them are helped in the community by their local GPs or at home and don't need any further forms of treatment. But a small number need to go as inpatients, to stay overnight, when their illness is particularly acute, maybe their behavioural problems are very difficult or maybe it becomes impossible to manage at home, so they need to go for a spell as an inpatient.

BARCLAY
How many then of these wards did you survey and what did you do?

GREATLEY
There are over 400 of these wards in England and we had answers from something over 300 of them, so more than 60% replied. We asked the ward managers, the people who actually run those wards, generally of course nurses by background, what their views were. We also asked the chief executives of the mental health trusts, there are something over 50 of those, what their views were and their information about staffing. So we had two sources of information.

BARCLAY
And what did you find?

GREATLEY
We found that the issue of staffing is particularly difficult. As there are what are called vacancy levels, that means where there are posts that are not filled, of something over 13%, that's really rather a high proportion. And what wards are doing to cover those gaps is that they bring in agency staff and bank staff - those are the local agency arrangements. What that means is that the staff on the wards are quite often under significant pressure and that the agency and bank staff, however good, are not familiar with those patients or familiar with the wards.

BARCLAY
And how does that reflect on the patients on themselves?

GREATLEY
The patients often feel that no one in those wards knows their problem particularly. They often find that they have to tell their story again, that if you like the therapeutic relationship - that talking relationship, the trusting relationship - that's needed between staff and patient is missing when people are busy and constantly changing.

BARCLAY
But you also found practical difficulties, didn't you, on the wards?

GREATLEY
We did. We asked the ward managers - and I think this is significant, this is the people who actually run these wards - did these wards provide a positive environment to improve mental health? And three quarters of them said it didn't. Now that can be a mix of things, it can be the colour, the décor, the lighting, the heating - very subtle things that would make us all very uncomfortable if we were in poor environments. But it can be very practical things, like having to share bathrooms, routinely men and women should have separate bathroom areas and they don't in just a few wards in Britain now.

BARCLAY
So it's obvious from what you say that you want all of that to change. The Department of Health has given us a statement, they say that they aim to make significant improvements in the wards where greatest needs by increasing capital investment, beginning this year with an allocation of an additional £30 million to trusts providing mental health and learning disability services. Will that be enough?

GREATLEY
It's going to be a drop in the ocean. There's been a lot of investment in community services, rightly in our view, and I think government and local managers have taken their eye off the ball on the acute inpatient areas, they haven't invested sufficiently either in staff or in the environment.

BARCLAY
Angela Greatley, chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, thank you for joining us.

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