Monday, 13 April 2009

Four psychiatric patients dying each day in NHS care

The NHS is today castigated for providing "inadequate" psychiatric help to vulnerable mental health patients, as new figures reveal an average of four deaths a day among those in its care.

Data collected by the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) shows that 1,282 people in England died in what it calls "patient safety incidents in mental health settings" in the period 2007-08.

Another 913 patients - more than two a day - suffered what is termed severe harm, or permanent injuries, in such incidents.

The figures include patients who died as a result of self-harming behaviour, including suicide, disruptive or aggressive behaviour, medication safety errors and accidents, although it is not specified how many deaths fell into each category.

Campaigners claimed last night that the high death rates showed that many of the hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people who seek help each year receive a second-class service.

"These figures are shocking. It's a scandal that four people a day are dying while under the care of the NHS, and nearly three a day are ending up seriously harmed. It's an appalling indictment of NHS psychiatric care," said Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman. The party unearthed the statistics by analysing reports sent by every hospital trust in England to the NPSA.

"These deaths are the result of inadequate attention and resources being given to mental health, despite the patients being among the most vulnerable and needy in the whole health system.

"There's discrimination in the system that disadvantages the mentally ill. The NHS is falling down too often in its responsibility to do whatever it can to protect such patients," he added.

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