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Patients at risk of suicide and harm over unsafe hospital discharges

Mental health services are failing to keep patients safe from suicide and harm after leaving hospital, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has warned.

It also identified failings around planning and communication when patients are discharged, and has urged the Government to strengthen the Mental Health Act.

The warning comes after the Department for Health and Social Care was forced to announce a Care Quality Commission (CQC) rapid review into mental health services in Nottingham following the killings of students Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Barnaby Webber, both 19, and school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, in June last year, by Valdo Calocane.

Knifeman Calocane had paranoid schizophrenia and had been a regular patient of Highbury Hospital with mental health problems. In a report last week, The Independent revealed separate investigations into Highbury Hospital which have led to the suspension of more than 30 staff over allegations of falsifying records and harming patients.

The latest report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), following a report in 2018, looked at more than 100 complaints between 2020 and 2023 where it had identified failings in mental health care. 

Lucy Schonegevel, director of policy and practice at the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: “Someone being discharged from a mental health service, potentially into unsafe housing, financial insecurity or distanced from family and friends, is likely to face the prospect with anxiety and a sense of dread rather than positivity. Mistakes or oversights during this process can have devastating consequences. This report puts a welcome spotlight on how services can improve the support they offer people going through the transition back into the community, by improving communication and the ways in which different teams work together to provide essential care.”

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Read PHSO report Discharge from mental health care: making it safe and patient-centred (PHSO, 1 February 2024)

Source: Independent (1 February 2024)


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