Spot Checks on Elderly Mental Health Wards in Wales

Full details of spot-checks on more than 20 mental health wards for elderly patients are being revealed.

The inspections were ordered by the Welsh health minister last autumn.

They found a “considerable variation” in standards and raised concerns about prescribing, training, the skill mix of staff and catering services.

It comes after a report earlier this month highlighted “institutional abuse” at the former Tawel Fan unit at Denbighshire’s Glan Clwyd hospital.

Relatives had described patients being treated like they were “in a zoo”.

An earlier Trusted To Care report found failings in the care of Lilian Williams, 82, at two hospitals in Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot.

Mrs Williams died in 2012 after three separate hospital stays.

This prompted a round of unannounced spot checks in 70 general wardstreating elderly patients at 20 hospitals which found medicine management issues.

This latest review late last year checked how older patients with dementia and mental illnesses were being looked after on specialist wards.

As well as issues like nutrition, medicines and continence care, the checks also included how restraints were used, daily activities for patients and how relatives were involved.

Inspectors included mental health nurses, pharmacists and occupational therapists.

Visits to 21 wards found “many areas of good and excellent practice” across Wales.

But they also showed some areas where improvements were needed.

“Considerable variation in standards and practice” were found which needed to be acted on.

These include issues related to:

  • Prescribing and the storage of medications
  • The skill mix of staff available to give the most appropriate care
  • Staff training
  • The quality and dementia-friendliness of the ward
  • The application of mental health and mental capacity legislation in practice
  • Catering services.

The findings have already been raised with health boards.

The detailed ward-by-ward reports are being published later.