Mental health professionals have united to launch a scheme to improve inpatient psychiatric wards.
It follows a string of highly critical reports on the state of psychiatric wards.
In July, the National Patient Safety Agency reported there had been 19 alleged rapes of patients in NHS mental health settings between 2003 and 2005. In May last year a Healthcare Commission audit of violence on inpatient psychiatric and learning disability wards found 78% of nurses, 41% of clinical staff and 36% of service users said that they have either been personally attacked, threatened or made to feel unsafe.
In response, The Royal College of Psychiatrists, the British Psychological Society, the College of Occupational Therapists and the Royal College of Nursing are co-managing a psychiatric ward accreditation scheme, entitled Accreditation for Acute In-patient Mental Health Services (AIMS).
The professional bodies say “something must be done” to improve wards.
To gain accreditation, staff on a particular ward must first make a self-assessment of their ward.
Staff check themselves against more than 100 measures. They cover everything from staff training, to patient advocacy provision, to making sure that on the day a patient is admitted and well enough they are notified who their primary nurse is, and how to arrange to meet with them.
This self-review will be followed by a visit from staff from other wards participating in the accreditation scheme
Wards will then be, at best, judged “excellent” and, at worse, “a significant threat to patient safety, rights or dignity and/or would breach the law.”
Service users will be “centrally” involved in assessing wards, say the scheme’s organisers.
Accreditation is for four years, but is subject to regular self-review.
Up to now around 20 wards have participated in a pilot of AIMS
Organisers say AIMS differs from other inspection systems, such as that by the Healthcare Commission, because it involves “local ownership” and engagement of all relevant groups.
Dr Paul Lelliott, director of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ research and training unit, said: “AIMS will create an incentive for managers in mental health services to undertake a sustained programme of improvements to their wards, and lead to the sharing of good ideas between staff in different parts of the country.”
AIMS is funded by subscriptions from participating mental health services.