A litany of protection issues and risks to mental health patients at Walsall Healthcare Trust facilities and Manor Hospital can be revealed by the Express & Star.
A massive shortage of mental health nurses meant security guards cared for vulnerable patients with complex mental health needs for 8,000 hours in 2020/2021. The hours were classified under the term Patient Watch.
Mental health charity Mind has described the dangers of the trust’s patient monitoring policy.
Paul Spencer, Head of Health, Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said: ‘When you are admitted to hospital for your mental health, you are at your worst and need compassionate support and treatment. from trained professionals in a safe therapeutic environment. environment.
“Having staff such as security guards monitoring patients instead of mental health professionals is unlikely to be safe, as untrained staff are unlikely to have the skills to support a person living a complex mental health crisis.This is a problem in hospitals across the country, a problem that can only be solved if the UK government invests properly in our mental health workforce.
Incidents involving mental health patients using weapons, drugs and alcohol have worsened during the pandemic, forcing a review of the trust’s procedures.
The trust was also forced to build a secure unit, surrounded by security cameras, to prevent staff and patients from stealing laughing gas (nitrogen dioxide) and liquid oxygen.
Another major issue facing the trust was poor medication management by staff, which led to patients being given the wrong doses at the wrong time, if at all.
The findings of a safety report commissioned by the Walsall Healthcare Trust’s health and safety committee led to a series of recommendations the trust is working on to pull itself out of the crisis.
The dire state of Walsall’s supply for mental health patients is being replicated across the NHS. Last month, the Greater Manchester Mental Healthcare Trust sacked several staff after an undercover BBC Panorama reporter filmed shocking patient abuse.
In Walsall, as a desperate measure, nurses can request a few hours of Patient Watch during which security guards monitor patients. However, instead of being a process of last resort, Patient Watch has become a default method of care.
An audit report stated this summer: “The health and safety committee [noted] concern over requests for patient monitoring by nursing staff, as security staff may not be the most appropriate person to sit with a patient. The health and safety committee will undertake a review of the criteria surrounding the monitoring of patients, the financial element involved and the appropriate processes for these patients.
“A total of 8,000 hours were logged for monitoring patients in 2020/21, it was noted that these patients often have complex mental health needs and no proper risk assessments are undertaken.”
“There are concerns about patient monitoring requests from nursing staff, as security staff may not be the most appropriate person to sit with a patient.”
Kevin Bostock, Director of Insurance, said: “Things have gotten worse during the pandemic, the Trust doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with mental health patients outside of short-term assessments, which which had a huge impact on the number of patient surveillances.”
Children and young people with mental health issues were also dropped this year.
The Walsall Healthcare Risk Register report warned in June: “The Walsall Healthcare Trust’s ability to support and manage any child or young person awaiting level four admission. An increase in the number of children and young people in crisis within pediatrics resulting in a failure to address and manage patient safety throughout the patient journey.
“There is no mental health training for service staff, but a misconception that Trust staff are trained to meet the needs of children and young people in crisis.”
And worryingly: “There is no access to out-of-hours mental health support or advice. There is no access to out-of-hours child psychiatry. “
A series of conflicts of interest were also found in the audit reports, including staff signing their own hours and an incredibly 1,600 staff who cannot be contacted by email because they “didn’t no account”.
The report states: “The committee was informed that approximately 1,600 employees do not have email addresses. This makes communication more complex and the completion of the staff survey problematic.”
Walsall Healthcare Trust has been approached for comment.