The government has announced a rapid review of inpatient mental health services in England.

It follows calls for an examination of patient safety after a Sky News investigation into alleged failures in the care of adolescents at mental health units run by a single provider – the Huntercombe Group, now part of Active Care Group.

Our investigation raised concerns from more than 50 former patients.

Maria Caulfield, the minister for Mental Health and Women’s Health Strategy, said the review will focus on data and evidence available to healthcare services including from families and patients, and how it can be used to identify patient safety risks more effectively.

It will be chaired by Dr Geraldine Strathdee, who is currently running the Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry into inpatient mental health deaths in Essex between 2000 and 2020. The two inquiries will run separately.

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Patients of mental health units tell their story. Content warning: this video contains references to self-harm

Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow cabinet minister for Mental Health, responding to the government’s written ministerial statement announcing the review, said: “Labour has long been calling for a rapid review of these services, following numerous allegations made at several inpatient units last year.

“Patients must be prioritised – Labour has a plan to transform patient access to mental health services, ensuring one million additional people will be receiving help each year by the end of our first term in office.”

Ms Caulfield said: “My officials will continue to work closely with their colleagues in NHS England to make sure the review is aligned with, and complementary to, the Quality Improvement programme.

“NHS England has established a three-year Quality Improvement programme which seeks to tackle the root causes of unsafe, poor-quality inpatient care in mental health, learning disability and autism settings.”

Read more:
Calls for ‘rapid’ review of inpatient mental health care following Sky News investigation
‘It just felt like they’d given up on me’: Patients tell their stories of life in mental health units

‘Overuse of restraint and people left at risk of self-harm’

The Sky News investigation revealed there were recurring themes in patient complaints – from the overuse of restraint to inadequate staffing levels prompting claims people were left at risk of self-harm.

Nikki Boughton-Smith is the mother of Amber Rehman – one of the patients interviewed for our investigation.

Amber Rehman

Responding to the announcement of the review she told Sky News: “We welcome any move forward that investigates failures to date, especially with a view to prevention.

“One of the biggest failures is the disempowerment of patients and a review would not be complete without an opportunity for patient voices to be heard.

“A review should also question why mental health services are failing to adopt best practice at the frontline, and recruit and retain qualified and experienced staff.”

Active Care Group, which took over the Huntercombe Group in December 2021, has previously said the group has “already taken steps to make improvements to the service and remain committed to providing the best possible care for our patients”.

The previous owners of The Huntercombe Group – Elli Investments Group – told Sky News at the time of the report: “We regret that these hospitals and specialist care services, which were owned and independently managed by The Huntercombe Group, failed to meet the expected standards for high-quality care.”

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NHS trust apology after teen deaths

The review also follows major care failures in the deaths of three teenage girls at an NHS mental health trust.

Christie Harnett, 17, Nadia Sharif, 17, and Emily Moore, 18, who had all been diagnosed with complex mental health needs, took their own lives between June 2019 and February 2020 while under the care of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

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