Potential ligature points removed from mental health trust’s inpatient units

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant � 2012

Safety at all of the region's mental health trust's inpatient units has been improved after a £1.5m project to remove potential ligature points.

A ligature point is anything which could be used to attach a cord, rope or other material for the purpose of hanging or strangulation.

And research cited by the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has shown three quarters of people who take their own lives while on a psychiatric ward do so in this manner.

Plans to address potential ligature risks at the trust were criticised by the CQC in October last year as not being good enough.

But now an extensive initiative has seen any fixtures which were identified as being a high or medium risk either removed or upgraded to anti-ligature versions.

The project started in October, with a review of all of the trust's 37 inpatient wards.

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Work then began in the spring and the trust said was planned so it did not affect privacy or dignity while maintaining the same facilities for the benefit of service users.

A log of all the improvements which have been made will be regularly reviewed and updated as any new work takes place.

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Mark Kittle, head of strategic estates and maintenance services, led the project.

He said: 'Our ultimate aim has been to improve safety and reduce the risk to service users as much as we possibly can.

'At the same time, we have also brought all of the trust's estates, regardless of their age or design, up to the same standards.

'The project has seen us replace everything from windows and door furniture to pictures and light fittings. We've also installed sensor taps where possible, as well as anti-ligature hand rails and radiators.

'It represents a significant investment for the trust and we hope it will have a positive impact on those using our services for years to come.'

The CQC recognises in its guidance to inspectors that 'it is unlikely that a service can remove every potential ligature point from every ward area. However, whenever possible they should be made safe or replaced by 'anti-ligature' fittings'.

• If you need to talk, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

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