THE world's only national safety programme specifically designed for mental health has been rolled out across 14 wards in a health board area after being credited with improving care for patients.

The mental health arm of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme has seen more patient involvement in decision-making, work on medication safety, wider used of safety briefings at the beginning of shifts, and less use of restraint.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, visited Rutherford Ward at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow to find out more about it

Rutherford provides general psychiatric inpatient care.

The general programme started in 2008 to improve the safety and reliability of healthcare, avoiding unintentional harm. A specific mental health programme was launched in 2012, underlining it the same importance was attached to it as physical health.

As part of the programme, staff at Rutherford ward discussed how they could improve communication with patients. They changed the way paperwork was handled, leading to around 90 extra hours of nursing time per month. A patient activity coordinator started arranging daily activities for patients, including a walking group, cinema night and access to a gym.

The health board says there have been improvements to the way drugs are administered, to better understand the reasons for prescription. Environmental changes have also been made to the ward, with the walls painted bright colours, pictures hung and patients able to make their own tea and coffee.

Mr Hepburn said: "The patient safety programme for mental health is about trying to identify new ways to make patients, and staff, safer. Some of the ideas they've come up with could well be of benefit to similar wards around the country."

He said the mental health programme was launched in 2012 "because we wanted to acknowledge the particular importance, and challenges, of caring for those with mental health needs".

It has now been rolled out to 14 wards across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

"This is the only programme of its kind anywhere in the world, and we are already starting to see the benefits it is bringing," Mr Hepburn said.

Dr Michael Smith, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's Lead Associate Medical Director for Mental Health, said: "Patient safety is our first priority, and Rutherford Ward staff have been in the forefront of creating a ward environment that's not just safer, but also more therapeutic. "