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31 January 2017

Significant number of vulnerable patients receiving inadequate treatment

The national press and charities have reacted with alarm at the findings of the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) report: Mental Health in General Hospitals 2017.

The study aimed to identify and explore remediable factors in the quality of mental health and physical health care provided to patients with significant mental health conditions who were admitted to a general hospital with physical illness.

It involved 11,950 patients from 200 hospitals.  Good practice was recorded in 46% of the cases reviewed.  Failures to record patients’ mental health conditions in medical notes, to make appropriate referrals and to undertake proper risk assessments were noted in the report summary. Notably provision for 1:1 mental health specialist observations was identified as inadequate in 68% of cases.

NCEPOD chairwoman Professor Lesley Regan, Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

"This report should be a clarion call that we have a major problem that will be difficult to untangle and in the meantime we are failing a significant proportion of our patients."

The Guardian reported that “more than half of people with mental health problems receive a “double whammy” of poor care in general hospitals which increases patients’ risk of dying.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the charity Mind, said the report showed the care given to people with mental health conditions was "unacceptable".

The Daily Mirror also quoted report co-authors Dr Vivek Srivastava and Dr Sean Cross.

According to Dr Vivek Srivastava, patients with mental health conditions are “often discharged into the community inappropriately and then bounce back, in and out of hospital, if the underlying health condition is not treated properly.”

Dr Cross explained that the “report reveals a massive divide between the physical healthcare and mental healthcare people receive in general hospitals.”

The report called for new national guidelines outlining the expectations of general hospital staff in the management of patients with mental health conditions.

Longden Walker and Renney’s Peter Wade said,

“It is important that any patient’s needs are identified, recorded and attended to appropriately.”

If you are concerned that you have received inadequate medical treatment, please do not hesitate to contact us for specialist legal advice.  Longden Walker and Renney’s specialist team can be reached by telephone on 0191 566 6500, by email or by completing our short enquiry form.