Dispatches goes undercover at three separate NHS Trusts that care for the acutely mentally ill in hospital and reveals the hidden scandal of Britain’s psychiatric wards.
Britain’s Mental Health Scandal
An undercover reporter spent six months in three separate NHS Trusts that care for the acutely mentally ill in hospital. She secretly filmed conditions on adult general psychiatric wards whilst working as a healthcare assistant – having been trained in mental health nursing before going undercover.
The reporter finds an overwhelming lack of resources for psychiatric care resulting in understaffed wards that are chaotic, frightening and dangerous. With women forced to mix with men in communal areas, the reporter discovers that female patients are vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault and she finds incidences of overstretched hospital staff threatening patients and illegally administering medication.
Patients complain about ward conditions that are dirty and untherapeutic. One patient sums up her experience by saying: “It’s the best way to make someone have a nervous breakdown, being in this place.” Another says: “If you’re not mad when you come in, you will be by the time you leave.”
Dispatches also reveals that in some cases, the hospitals are failing to prevent patients self-harming on the ward – sometimes with tragic consequences. The film features interviews with grieving families who have lost their loved ones as a result of such failures in in-patient psychiatric care.
A professor of psychiatric nursing interviewed for the film describes many cases of psychiatric in-patient deaths as preventable. He says: “If you had patients dying in medical or surgical settings from obviously preventable deaths, there would be an outcry.”