Sexual safety on mental health wards
Jane Ray, Head of Inspection for Mental Health at the Care Quality Commission
Everyone accessing health and social services should expect to feel safe and be protected from abuse and avoidable harm. It’s fundamental to good care and that’s why Are they safe? is one of the five key questions we ask of services during inspections.
With this in mind, when inspectors in one of our regional teams discovered that a number of incident reports submitted by one trust through the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) described sexual incidents, we decided to examine how often other mental health trusts in England report sexual incidents. We wanted to understand if there were any themes and areas where improvements could be made.
Today we have published ‘Sexual safety on mental health wards’, a report that summarises this work: what we did, what we found, and recommendations for action.
Part of CQC’s role is to speak with our independent voice. This means that we talk honestly about what we find and share our views on key quality issues. This work is an important example of how we do this and how it can make a real difference to people who are using mental health inpatient services at what may be a particularly vulnerable time in their lives.
Speaking with our independent voice doesn’t mean only thinking about our own view — we have been working in coproduction throughout this project, and for me it’s been the most powerful element of this work.
We have worked to understand the issues and develop recommendations alongside a wide range of people and organisations, to ensure we consider how best to respond from every perspective. We’ve involved people who have lived experience of sexual incidents; people who use mental health services, their families and carers; organisations that represent the public; providers, including leaders and staff; and system partners. This process has given us confidence that people’s experiences as patients and of working in services reflect the data and confirm that this is a very real issue. It has also brought out some great ideas for action, that identify the roles we can all play in making a difference.
This is an area where significant improvement can take place. What’s more, it’s an area where improvement can make a difference to people’s lives.
We know that for change to happen across the country, national bodies and regulators need to use their position to lead this work. This is why we have worked in coproduction with these organisations to shape the recommendations. We all have a role to play in working to make improvements; if you are a professional working in mental health I encourage you to read the report, share the learning and recommendations with your colleagues, and consider what steps you can take at a local level.