Dignity in Care extended to mental health

Move to improve mental health services
Move to improve mental health services

Mental health patients need to be treated with more dignity, the government acknowledged today.

To help achieve this, the Department of Health (DoH) announced its flagship Dignity in Care policy - already used to drive up standards in elderly care - would be extended to mental health patients.

The policy is designed to ensure health professionals treat all patients with respect. Already in practice in elderly care service, it has included initiatives such as installing music systems in wards to drown out the sounds of confidential conversations.

While some mental health campaigners welcomed the initiative, others warned it would not tackle the real problems in mental health services.


Announcing the extension, care services minister Ivan Lewis said: "People experiencing mental health difficulties are amongst the most vulnerable in society.

"We know people fear what they don't understand. Fear can result in discrimination and we know that people with mental health problems are facing discrimination when trying to access public services like health care or get support from social services."

Mr Lewis said Dignity in Care was working to drive up standards in elderly care, aided by 1,000 'dignity champions' who promote dignity among their colleagues and other professionals.

"Our campaign to put dignity and respect at the heart of care services for older people is beginning to make a real difference at a local level," he said.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: "Our research has found people routinely feel stripped of dignity in the mental health system, even though dignity and self-esteem are essential to recovery from mental ill health.

"People with mental health problems are too often shunned and discriminated against, even in those places which are supposed to be therapeutic and caring.

"Yet being treated with kindness and respect by staff can make all the difference to someone's wellbeing and esteem and hasten recovery.

"If 'dignity champions' can go any way to redressing the de-personalising nature of our mental health wards, then they will be most welcome."

However, Rethink said the government was failing to address the real causes of indignity on mental health wards.

If it is serious about improving services it must abolish single-sex wards, the charity argued.

Paul Corry, director of public affairs at Rethink, said: "We want the Dignity in Care programme to make significant improvements to people's experiences, particularly on psychiatric wards that too often lack a therapeutic focus and can be unsafe surroundings for women."

Mr Corry highlighted the apparent murder of a woman on a mental health ward in Rochdale on Monday.

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