We observed levels of social interaction and activity among in-patients on 16 acute psychiatric wards in 6 hospitals in a large mental health trust. Each ward was observed for 1 week and attendance at organised activities was audited over 3-week periods.
At any time during the day 84% of in-patients were socially disengaged and mainly inactive. On average only 4% of in-patients' time was spent in an organised group activity, with many in-patients opting out altogether. Provision and take-up of group activity programmes varied widely between wards.
Provision of organised activity needs to be a higher priority in acute services, and there should be national and local standards for what should be provided. Concerted organisational strategies and assertive approaches by staff are needed to engage in-patients in group activity programmes.
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