NHS Tayside mental health services ‘failed patients and families’, inquiry finds

Written by Tom Freeman on 22 May 2019 in News

Interim report into Tayside mental health services lists catalogue of failings as system struggled with demand

Dundee and river Tay - CC1.0

Failings at NHS Tayside’s mental health services were so widespread patients were ignored or put at risk, an independent inquiry has reported. 

The 22-page interim report comes after relatives of suicide victims campaigned for an independent inquiry into why their relatives had been refused support before they took their own lives. 

The inquiry, led by David Strang, found a referral process so broken patients in crisis were redirected to police or NHS 24. 

In some cases, patients who told staff they felt suicidal were not believed until they tried to take their own lives. 

GPs also told the inquiry concerns they had raised about patients were rejected by the service. 

Meanwhile, in acute wards the inquiry found illegal drugs were widely used and potentially dangerous patients were allowed to discharge themselves at short notice. 

It is “not clear who is responsible for leading the service”, the report concluded. 

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said she has met the new leadership team at NHS Tayside to discuss how the board can learn from successes elsewhere in Scotland. 

“I would like to thank David Strang for his interim report, which has highlighted several areas where NHS Tayside needs to take urgent action to significantly improve services. 

“It is absolutely vital that people using our mental health services, as well as those delivering our services, feel safe and know they will receive the right help, in the right place when they need it. 

“The health board commissioned this independent inquiry in response to concerns about both the quality of, and access to, mental health services in Tayside and it is now imperative that the board immediately act on the findings of this interim report.” 

A new national Quality and Safety Board for Mental Health will be established to make sure the failings are not replicated elsewhere, she added. 

Dundee Labour MSP Jenny Marra said: “This report cataloguing failure after failure will horrify families in Dundee who have lost loved ones and suffered poor care from our mental health services. 

“Nobody is saying this is easy. But the litany of failures all in one service is too much. 

“The Health Secretary must put mental health services on the highest level of government support until the final report is issued. 

"NHS Tayside must heed the report’s recommendation to halt the planned move of services until there is a comprehensive review of the mental health strategy.” 

More than 1,300 people gave evidence to the inquiry, which will now give greater focus on patient access to mental health services, patient sense of safety, quality of care, organisational learning, leadership and governance.

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