Every female patient out of 17 who featured in a study of mixed-sex psychiatric wards said they had been assaulted or threatened, or that they knew other patients who had.
This is according to a study’s findings published in this month’s British Journal of Psychiatry.
The study aimed to assess the perceptions of staff and women patients of their safety in medium secure psychiatric units.
Information was collated from 16 medium secure units (11 mixed and five single-sex units) in England and Wales.
In total 58 male and female staff and 31 women patients in single-sex and mixed-sex medium secure units took part in the study by Gillian Mezey, Yonette Hassell and Annie Barlett, all of the University of London
It is recognised that women patients in mixed-sex psychiatric wards are vulnerable to threat, harassment and abuse by male patients, and also staff.
A Department of Health document, Safety Privacy and Dignity in Mental Health Units, specified that it had the “clear objective” to end mixed sex accommodation in 95% of health authority areas by 2002.
Last year, however, a report by mental health charity Mind, claimed ministers had failed to keep their pledge to keep this pledge.
In the British Journal of Psychiatry study, the women in mixed-sex settings reported experiences of threats and violence, such as witnessing male patients masturbating and staff assaulted by patients.
No woman reported sexual abuse by other women in the single-sex units. But many complained of bullying, intimidation and aggressive behaviour by other women.