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Locked inpatient units in modern mental health care: values and practice issues

Abstract

Locked inpatient units are an increasing phenomenon, introduced in response to unforseen abscondences and suicides of patients. This paper identifies some value issues concerning the practice of locked psychiatric inpatient units. Broad strategies, practicalities and ethical matters that must be considered in inpatient mental health services are also explored. The authors draw on the published research and commentary to derive relevant information to provide to patients and staff regarding the aims and rationales of locked units. Further debate is warranted in relation to best practice. Inpatient staff need to be aware of their practice values, be able to access education and supervision and negotiate apparent contradictions. Further patient/clinician focused enquiry is necessary to mitigate the negative and stigmatising effects of locked mental health units.

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