Hospital care

Who decides if I will be admitted to hospital?

A Home Treatment Team (HTT) will assess you to see if hospital admission is absolutely necessary. HTTs and crisis intervention teams will assess you in the community - usually in your home, community mental health team (CMHT) base or GP surgery.

Some people admit themselves to hospital voluntarily.  Or, if you are very unwell, the police may bring you in to hospital.  In either case, you will be assessed by staff at the hospital and they will decide if it is necessary for you to be admitted.

What happens immediately after someone has been admitted?

After you have been welcomed and introduced to the ward, you will be assessed by members of the mental health care team, including a junior psychiatrist and a nurse. You will normally have a physical health check and will be involved in creating your care plan.  A care plan is a written agreement which describes the support that you will receive, from whom and when - as well as what to do in the event of a crisis.

If you have been detained under the Mental Health Act, then your legal rights will also be explained to you.

If I'm a lone parent, what happens to my child/children if I'm admitted to hospital?

If it isn't possible for family or friends to look after your children while you are in hospital, then social services will be contacted to find temporary care for them.

If I'm worried about a family member, friend or neighbour how do I get them assessed and admitted to hospital?

If you can, the best thing to do is to talk directly to the person you are worried about. Or, if you know their care team you can contact them. If this is not possible, then you can contact the local community mental health team (CMHT) or your GP and explain your concerns.   Call our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) for details of your local community mental health team on 0800 7312864

How do I find out if someone I know is being treated in hospital?

Due to patient confidentiality we cannot disclose this. You can approach the person's relatives or the person will need to contact you themselves.

What does it mean to be 'sectioned' under the Mental Health Act?

The Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983 allows you to be detained in hospital. When this happens, you are called a 'detained' patient and your consent to treatment is no longer required. This is often known as being 'sectioned'. The MHA is designed to protect and treat you when you are too unwell to realise you need help and to prevent you from harming yourself and others. Two doctors are required to section someone under the MHA.  At least one of the doctors must have mental health training.

How do I find out more about a particular section of the Mental Health Act?

When you arrive at the hospital ward you should be given all the relevant information.  You can find out more information on the Mental Health Act here

What if I don't agree with the section that I, or someone I know or care for, has been placed on?

If you have been placed on a section of the Mental Health Act, part of the admission process to the hospital includes having your legal rights explained to you.  This includes information on how you can appeal against the decision to section you.  Your nearest relative (as classified by law) can also appeal against a section on your behalf.

Will my employer be told if I am admitted to hospital?

No. All patients are entitled to confidential treatment.

Will my family be told if I am admitted to hospital?

If you do not want your family to know then we will do our best to respect your wishes. You must let us know first though. However, if you are assessed under the Mental Health Act we need to contact your next of kin. This can be a difficult time and families can provide a lot of support while you receive treatment.

What kinds of treatment are provided?

Treatments vary according your particular needs and care plan. They include: talking therapy, medication, occupational therapy (OT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and access to a variety of mental health professionals including nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Can I get access to therapy in hospital?

This depends on the nature and severity of your mental health illness and the kind of therapy you want or have been referred to.

How long does someone stay in hospital?

The amount of time you stay in hospital will depend on your diagnosis and the severity of your illness. An inpatient admission can last anything from a couple of days to a few months.

Once you have settled into the ward you will be introduced to your key worker. They will be responsible for coordinating your nursing care and will be able to tell you how long they think you will need to stay in hospital. Your key worker is the equivalent of your care coordinator based in the community team. To avoid confusion, we have used the title key worker in hospitals and care coordinator in the community.

What facilities do inpatients have?

Every ward has different facilities, depending on the type of ward. Each one has a communal area, such as a lounge or dining room, and may also have an art or therapy area and relaxation or chill out room. If you are staying on a mixed sex ward there will be two clearly defined areas for men and women, with separate washing and sleeping areas. Some wards have bedrooms with ensuite facilities. You will also have your own bedroom.

What if I don't want to stay in hospital - who do I talk to?

Most people in hospital stay as informal patients. This means they have agreed to come into hospital. If you have been admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act (MHA) then your movements may be more restricted. If you are unsure what type of patient you are or what MHA section you are on, ask your key worker.
The MHA aims to achieve a balance between your mental health needs and the freedom you are given to come and go from the ward.

Can I get someone to bring my belongings into hospital such as my mobile phone, DVD player, television or stereo?

Being admitted to hospital in an emergency leaves little or no time to prepare. However, on other occasions you will have time to decide what to take.  Generally, it's best not to bring too much to begin with. People can always bring more things for you later on.

It is best not to bring valuables such as jewellery, electrical equipment or your favourite clothes.

You should bring any medication you are taking.  You should give this to the nursing staff when you arrive so they know the type and dose of medicine you are taking.

You should take a change of clothes with you, night things and toiletries. It's also worth remembering to have a list of important telephone numbers with you.

If possible, it can be helpful if a friend or relative can come with you and offer you support during the admission process. They may also be able to give the nursing staff useful information and make a note of anything you have forgotten to bring in.

Are any kinds of activities provided for people who are admitted to hospital?

Occupational therapy (OT) includes recreational activities, arts and crafts and drama therapy, as well as group classes on coping skills, assertiveness and relaxation. There will usually be a morning and afternoon session each weekday on your ward, although this does depend on which hospital and ward you are in.

Depending on your condition you may also have access to other services, such as film clubs and sports and fitness classes. Ask your key worker for more information about any events and activities taking place.

Who provides the food?

While you are in hospital we will provide you with three meals a day. Breakfast is normally served from the ward kitchen and includes cereals and toast. Lunch is served at around 12.00, and an evening meal is served between 5.00 to 5.30pm. Both meals include a choice of salads, sandwiches, soups and hot meals. Drinks and light snacks are also available throughout the day.

How often are the wards cleaned?

Wards are cleaned daily and communal areas are cleaned on a more frequent basis. Most wards have a house keeper who is in charge of ensuring the ward is clean and comfortable and that the food and food service is enjoyable. If you have any concerns about the ward or your room, talk to you key worker or a member of staff.

Can I order takeaway food?

We have a responsibility to provide healthy and nutritious food for patients. There may be special occasions where a ward decides to order takeaway food, but patients are discouraged from ordering food for delivery.

If I have special dietary requirements will these be catered for?

We ensure that the food we provide reflects the needs of the people we look after. Our menu always includes a vegetarian option. Please tell a member of staff if you have specific dietary requirements, because of religious beliefs or for health reasons and we will make the necessary arrangements. A selection of special meals is available, but these will need to be ordered in advance.

Is there anyone who cares for patients' spiritual needs?

We have a spiritual and pastoral care service that can visit your ward. If the Chaplain does not represent your own faith, we can advise you about how and where to find representatives of specific faith groups.

Your own faith community leaders or representatives are welcome to visit you in hospital. If they need to visit outside visiting hours they can ring to arrange a time.  Each site has a dedicated faith room or area. Ask a member of ward staff for more information.

Will I have access to the internet or a phone on the ward?

Each ward has a telephone line for you to use. There will also be a number you can give to relatives and friends so they can reach you. Ask your key worker for the number. Monitored internet access is also available on most wards.

Can I smoke on the ward?

We operate a no smoking policy for inpatient areas. If you do smoke you will need to check with ward staff about your leave status. Some wards operate smoking breaks, where staff will escort a group of patients to a designated smoking area attached to the ward/unit. If you are on a section of the Mental Health Act you will need to speak to staff about opportunities to smoke.

Can I use a mobile phone on the ward?

The use of mobile phones is not allowed on the ward. Each ward has a telephone line for you to use.

Who decides when it is time to be discharged?

Your psychiatrist will normally lead the weekly ward round with the team. This is where decisions about your care will be made. The team will invite you to talk with them; and may also discuss your needs between themselves. It is often during this meeting that your doctor will decide if you are ready to be discharged.

How much notice will I be given about being discharged?

We will aim to give you as much notice as possible. Sometimes, when you are coming to the end of an inpatient admission we may discharge you slightly earlier than originally planned, depending on your individual circumstances.

What happens if I haven't got anywhere to go after being discharged?

Your housing needs will first be discussed when you have your Community Care Assessment.  This is an assessment of your care and support needs in the community and will be carried out by your local authority.

You can request a Community Care Assessment from your local social services department or from your key worker. After the assessment you will be sent a written care plan that details the type of support you will receive.

It is important to note that your local authority may not always pay for your housing. You should talk to your key worker to find out if they will or not. When you are ready to leave hospital your housing needs will again be highlighted in your discharge or release plan.

Once I'm discharged, who do I contact if I need help in a crisis?

Before you are formally discharged you will usually attend an aftercare meeting where your care plan will be reviewed and updated if required.

In your care plan there will be a contact number to ring if you are in crisis. You can find out more about care plans in this short film.

If you are not sure what to do at any point, you can either contact the SLaM 24-hour information line on 0800 731 2864 or NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. If you are concerned about an immediate risk of harm, to yourself or someone else, then call 999 or visit your local hospital emergency department.

What kind of staff work on the average ward and how many of them?

Nurses, health care assistants, occupational therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. There are usually four or five staff per day shift and less at night. Some wards may also have some staff employed to do specific activities, for example an 'activities coordinator'.

Who will look after my physical health needs?

The doctor/junior psychiatrist and nurses on the ward will take care of your physical health. Where necessary, they will be helped by staff from outside the ward.

If I have a friend or family member in hospital, when can I visit them, and how do I find out?

Every ward has specific visiting hours. A member of the ward can tell you more. See the services section of the website to find the ward's contact details.

Can I park at the Hospital?

Maudsley Hospital: There is limited pay and display parking at the front of the Maudsley Hospital on Denmark Hill. It is possible, though difficult, to park in some of the nearby streets. Using public transport is recommended if possible.

The Ladywell Unit at University Hospital Lewisham: There is limited pay and display parking within the hospital grounds. It is possible to park on the nearby streets but you will need to pay to do so. Using public transport is recommended if possible.

Bethlem Royal Hospital: There is a visitors' car park at Bethlem Royal Hospital.

Lambeth Hospital: There is only limited parking at the Lambeth Hospital. It is possible, though difficult, to park in some of the nearby streets.

Can I bring my children when visiting someone in hospital?

Yes, most wards have a family room. Please check with ward staff before visiting with children.

What kind of things should I not bring someone when visiting hospital?

We do not allow anything that might harm people on our wards. This includes aerosols, sharp objects, drugs and alcohol. If you are in any doubt please check with the ward staff.

If I don't agree with the treatment that is being provided by the hospital what should I do?

If you do not agree with the treatment you are getting you should tell the team providing your care. If you are a service user you can tell your key worker or your care coordinator.

If you are still unhappy, you can speak to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) for the Trust on 0800 731 2864. PALS is a service that offers confidential advice and support in speedily resolving any concerns you may have with the service. They can also help in directing you to other sources of support, and in explaining the NHS complaints procedure.

If I'm worried about how someone is being treated in hospital what should I do?

If you are worried about how someone is being treated you should talk to a member of staff. If you are still unhappy you can speak to the ward manager or team leader.

You can also get confidential help and advice from our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). Telephone number: 0800 731 2864.

If you feel your concerns still haven't been dealt with then you can make a formal complaint.



The following short film provides of overview of being treated in hospital.


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