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Report: British Psychiatric Wards Are Still Overcrowded, Dirty, Understaffed
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 7, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--A report by three mental health groups has concluded that people with mental illness are being institutionalized at a high rate in overcrowded, filthy psychiatric wards, and are prescribed out-dated types of medications.

The report, "Behind Closed Doors", was prepared by the mental health charities Rethink, Sane and the Zito Trust.

The report's authors said that 24,100 people were "sectioned" under the Mental Health Act in 2002-2003 compared to 19,000 in 1992-93. Twenty-percent of those being admitted to psychiatric wards had been released into the community within the previous three months. Some of those were discharged simply to make room for new admissions, the report revealed.

"Too many psychiatric wards remain overcrowded, unhygienic, chaotic and run-down," Paul Corry, Head of Policy and Campaigns for Rethink, told the Independent. "Serious staff shortages and safety concerns persist, patients are often left for days with nothing to do, and abuse of street drugs is commonplace."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane, said that many patients were still being prescribed "typical" anti-psychotic medications which were first developed in the 1950s. These drugs have more short-term and long-term side effects than the newer generation of medications.

Mr. Corry added that many more people could receive services in the community rather than institutions if they were given the proper treatments.

The authors acknowledged that there have been 650 national "strategies, guidelines and frameworks" started in the past five years, but said that the mental health system still is not moving quickly enough on reforms.

"There can be no freedom of choice or chance of better treatment while the acute wards remain in many places filthy and overcrowded and staff demoralized," Wallace told the BBC.

A Department of Health spokesman responded that the government is committed to modernizing psychiatric wards and patient care, and that while "the system is rapidly improving", there is "lots of work to be done."

Mental health still 'in turmoil' (BBC News)
'I felt like a zombie' (BBC News)


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