Hundreds die in ‘hidden world’ of mental hospitals

originally published: The Guardian
published: 12th July 2009

New figures released by the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody show that in the past 10 years 3,540 of those detained in NHS facilities, including high-security psychiatric hospitals, have died.

The figures have been condemned as “horrific” by the Howard League for Penal Reform, which will launch a campaign tomorrow called Lost Daughters, calling for fewer women and girls to be held in custody. As part of its campaign, the charity will place a memorial advert in the Observer every time there is a death.

“These numbers are horrific,” said Frances Crook, director of the Howard League. “These are closed institutions. These deaths are happening away from the public eye. We need to scrutinise exactly what’s going on in this shadowy, hidden world.”

The figures reveal that more than 800 of the 1,979 male deaths and almost 300 of the 1,561 deaths among women over the 10-year period were from unnatural causes, including suicides and accidents.

These patients were largely middle-aged, with about half dying outside the hospital, either during home leave or during periods when they were absent without permission.

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