Half of Mental Health Patients on Mixed Wards

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Byline: JENNY HOPE

MORE than half of psychiatric patients are being forced to endure the indignity of mixedsex wards, according to an independent census.

Health inspectors yesterday undermined the Government's claim to have ended the practice in 99 per cent of hospitals.

In a survey of all mental health units in England and Wales, the Healthcare Commission found 55 per cent of inpatients share sleeping accommodation or bathrooms with members of the opposite sex.

The Government pledged to do away with mixed-sex wards when it came to power in 1997, following condemnation of the situation by Tony Blair as Opposition leader a year earlier.

But the practice continued and complaints from patients forced Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to order an investigation in November.

Ministers rejected a report last year from the National Patient Safety Agency that recorded at least 19 rapes of mental health patients in England and more than 100 other improper sexual incidents in psychiatric units in the previous two years.

Lord Warner, then health minister, said the allegations of rape were unsubstantiated.

In July he told peers that 99 per cent of NHS mental health trusts met objectives set out in 2000 requiring mental health units to provide separate sleeping, toilet and bathing accommodation for men and women.

He said mixed-sex wards were an exception for 'a very small number of patients, when admitted as an emergency'. …