A new report shows alarming rates of assault and harassment toward patients. These vulnerable people must be better protected

We already know that conditions in mental health units are not always up to scratch. Overuse of restraint, understaffing, patients being sent hundreds of miles from home: mental health units are often very far from the safe haven they ought to be for those needing help. And now a new report from the Care Quality Commission has uncovered some shocking truths about the sexual safety of patients and staff in mental health wards.

The report, which analysed around 60,000 incidents between April and June 2017, found 1,120 sexual incidents involving patients, staff and visitors; of these, more than a third – 457 – could be classified as sexual assault or harassment. More than two-thirds of the victims in these cases were patients.

Related: NHS care regulator says sexual incidents 'commonplace' in mental health units

Emily Reynolds is a freelance journalist and author

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".

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18 February 2019