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One in five mental health patients don’t feel safe in NHS care, ombudsman warns



One in five patients diagnosed with a mental health problem do not feel safe in NHS care, according to new research.

A YouGov survey commissioned by Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman showed that 20% of mental health patients did not feel safe while receiving treatment in an NHS establishment. 

The survey, completed by 3,480 adults in England, also found that nearly six in 10 patients experienced delays to their treatment.

Meanwhile, 42% said they waited too long to receive a diagnosis, with some respondents saying they had to wait for a year to be seen by a healthcare professional.

Other findings showed that: 

  • Nearly half said they would be unlikely to complain if they were unhappy with the service provided;
  • One in three said they did not think their complaint would be taken seriously;
  • A quarter said they were concerned that complaining would affect how they were treated.

Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: ‘It’s unacceptable that so many patients requiring mental health treatment are left feeling unsafe in the NHS but this survey supports what we see too frequently in our casework. Patients must be supported to speak up when mistakes happen and not left scared that their treatment will be affected if they do so.

‘While the NHS in England must continue to implement its Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, it should also look now at what more is needed to transform mental health services so the people who need them get the care they deserve.’

Commenting on the survey, Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at mental health charity Mind, said: ‘It is deeply concerning that so many people don’t feel safe when seeking mental health support from the NHS – this is the very least you should be able to expect. The NHS must address issues with dangerous buildings, that leave people vulnerable to suicide and sexual assault, and deal with severe staff shortages to keep people safe from harm.’

She added: ‘This survey also highlights the unacceptable situation with waiting times for mental health treatment. We know that when people are left waiting their condition often deteriorates and they might become suicidal. It is crucial that people are not only seen in time but that they also have meaningful engagement with clinicians, in which they are involved in decisions about their care.’

According to data obtained by Pulse through freedom of information requests, just one in five trusts accept referrals for children with all severities of mental health conditions.