Statistics show that 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year (mentalhealth.org.uk). It is perhaps not a surprise therefore that the NHS is under pressure to provide the necessary level of care. The latest findings by The Royal College of Psychiatrists, in a survey of over 500 of its trainees, working across the UK, suggest that mental health services are approaching “tipping point” and that the pressure is so severe that some patients are being sectioned to secure the care that they need.
Recent investigations by the BBC and online journal Community Care have shown that 1,700 mental health beds have been cut and that patients are being forced to travel huge distances to access care. The survey found that 30% of those responding have sent critically ill patients home because no beds could be found and a third have seen patients admitted to a ward without a bed.
Professor Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists noted “The NHS doesn’t have the resources to cope with ever increasing demand. The system doesn’t have the services to provide everyone with the care they need.”
Unfortunately, as well as problems accessing the right care, mental health patients can also experience issues with obtaining the appropriate standard of care. Medical Negligence covers a very broad subject area and does not just apply to general hospitals and doctors’ surgeries as one might expect. It is an issue that is also relevant in psychiatric wards and units where mental health patients are cared for. Whilst mental health patients may not be receiving medical care in the obvious sense of the term they are being provided with healthcare services and those services should meet a reasonable and competent standard. Whilst most of the treatment given to psychiatric patients in this country is, on the whole, carried out very competently, unfortunately sometimes the care given falls below the appropriate standard and this is called substandard treatment. If this substandard treatment causes extra harm, injury or distress to the patient i.e. the patient suffers more long term damage than they otherwise would have with good treatment, then they may have suffered clinical or medical negligence.
If you have any concerns about the content of this article or believe that you may have suffered from substandard medical care then please contact the TSP Clinical Negligence team here.