Illegal drugs on wards and concerns over patient restraint have been highlighted in a report into NHS Tayside’s mental health services.

The independent inquiry’s interim report has identified “key themes for further investigation” after hearing evidence from more than 1,300 people.

It said some patients were frightened of certain staff members.

NHS Tayside said improvements had been made in key areas highlighted in the interim report.

The inquiry is reviewing safety, care standards and access to mental health services.

An investigation was initially ordered into Dundee’s Carseview Centre but was expanded following a campaign by families of people who took their own lives.

More than 200 written submissions were received by the inquiry team following its call for evidence, and more than 70 oral evidence sessions were held.

It said the key themes were patient access to mental health services, patient sense of safety, quality of care, organisational learning, leadership and governance.

Referring to risk management, the report said: “Patients report telling staff they were suicidal but the risk was not taken seriously until they made a serious attempt to take their own life.”

‘Violated and traumatised’

In relation to patient safety, the report noted: “Some patients report being frightened of certain staff on the wards who have a poor attitude to the patients in their care.

“Others mentioned that another patient had assaulted them whilst they were on the ward.”

The report said the use of restraint within inpatient facilities was of “great concern” to patients, who had experienced it or witnessed it taking place.

It said: “Patients feel violated and traumatised, particularly if they have personally suffered violent abuse in the past.”

People talking

It added that staff seemed unable to control the availability and use of illegal drugs on the wards in the inpatient facilities.

“Both patients and families report seeing drugs delivered, sold and taken within the Carseview Centre site,” the report said.

“Staff confirm this is a serious issue which is not being adequately addressed.

“There is a lack of support from management for frontline staff attempting to address this issue and it is having a detrimental effect on patient care and treatment regimes”.

‘Unexpected and concerning’

In a section on the Crisis Service, the report said that the Crisis team “struggles to respond to sudden surges in demand on the service.”

It said: “There are occasions when the length of time to wait to be seen is long and families supporting someone in crisis are advised to phone the police or NHS24, if they are worried.

“This advice is unexpected and concerning to carers coping with a crisis in a domestic situation.”

The report said the centralisation of the out-of-hours Crisis team to Carseview Centre has had a “detrimental effect on those patients in Angus and Perth & Kinross who are experiencing mental health crisis”.

It said: “There is a perception that whilst the Crisis service has expanded in recent months, the situation has worsened in terms of patients being assessed then not being offered any crisis intervention, or referred back to the GP.”

Inquiry chairman David Strang said: “The themes which have been identified will shape the next stage of the inquiry.

“Our final report will include conclusions and recommendations which will lead to the improvement of mental health services in Tayside.”

‘Top priority’

NHS Tayside chief executive Grant Archibald said: “We are taking on board all comments in the interim report, alongside the feedback we received from the Health and Social Care Alliance (the Alliance) published in their report in December 2018.

“The key themes which have been identified in both the Alliance report and in today’s interim report are recognised by the board and the mental health leadership team – and we are taking action on these.

“I also recognise and want to thank the many staff who are already working really hard to improve services and look forward to their continued support.

“It is clear that we have further work to do but since I came to Tayside, I have made mental health a top priority and I am confident we can learn lessons, strengthen our engagement with patients, service users, families and the public and make the right kinds of changes, at the right time, to transform our mental health services.”

He added: “We would like to thank everyone who has shared their experiences so far and we look forward to the independent inquiry’s final report and recommendations which will be a major influence on the future shape of mental health services in Tayside.”

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