Most alleged rapes of psychiatric patients in mental health units almost certainly never happened, the national director of mental health has said.
In July this year the National Patient Safety Agency found 19 cases of alleged rapes of patients in NHS mental health settings between 2003 and 2005.
But Professor Louis Appleby, the government’s mental health “tsar”, reviewed each allegation and said there is “significant doubt” as to whether any incident at all took place in 13 of the 19 alleged cases.
Professor Appleby said: “Although it was not our aim to determine whether the allegations were true or not, we did receive details on most cases and in my opinion there is significant doubt in the majority as to whether any incident occurred.
“For example, several allegations were made when the patient’s mental state was severely disturbed, and the details of the allegations reflected this.
“This significant doubt applies to 13 of the 19 – there are too few details in the rest to make any comment.
“It is important to remember that press reporting in July assumed that 19 rapes had occurred: the reputation of mental health services may well have been unfairly damaged by this.”
Nevertheless, the government has pledged to spend £30 million in a bid to improve the sexual safety of female psychiatric patients.
The funds will be used “to enhance safety on mental health wards, particularly for women users”.
National guidance is also to be issued next year to help mental health trusts ensure all safety incidents and allegations of a sexual nature are properly managed .
Professor Appleby said: “Despite what has been discovered about these 19 cases, I believe that the general issue of sexual safety remains important and I am determined to see that this issue is addressed.”