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In recent years, the purpose and quality of provision delivered in acute inpatient psychiatric settings have been increasingly questioned. Studies from a service user perspective have reported that while some psychiatric inpatients feel safe and cared for, others feel their time in hospital is neither safe nor therapeutic. This paper explores the experiences of service users on acute inpatient psychiatric wards in England, with a particular focus on their feelings of safety and security. Interviews were conducted with 60 psychiatric inpatients in England. The majority of service users felt safe in hospital and felt supported by staff and other service users. However, anything that threatened their sense of security such as aggression, bullying, theft, racism and the use of alcohol and drugs on the ward, made some respondents feel insecure and unsafe. Psychiatric wards are still perceived by many as volatile environments, where service users feel forced to devise personal security strategies in order to protect themselves and their property. It would appear that there remains much to do before research findings and policies are implemented in ways that facilitate all service users to derive the maximum benefit from their inpatient experience. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing

Publication Date





124 - 130