Women and secure psychiatric services: a literature review


An issue of major concern in the planning and provision of secure psychiatric services is that of how to meet the specific needs of women effectively. Forming a minority of people in secure psychiatric settings, women may be badly served by a system which has grown up principally to meet the needs of men.

The aim of this review was to provide summaries of research evidence which could be used to inform policy regarding the provision of appropriate, sensitive and effective services to women requiring psychiatric care in secure settings.


Issues for policymakers included the need for consideration of, the physical environment; more individualised levels of security to develop in response to women's needs; NHS purchasing structures to avoid adverse influence toward particular forms of care or resettlement; ways to prevent readmission; and the need to facilitate the involvement of women patients as stakeholders in the planning of their care and treatment. This is important not only in relation to empowerment, but also for therapeutic reasons.

Some key gaps in the research were identified; for example, any knowledge about the effects of different service models; wider aspects of women's lives and the impact of gender and social inequalities: research into the experiences and needs of women diagnosed as having personality disorders.

A number issues for practitioners followed on from the policy and research issues raised.

Conducted by: CRD and the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol


NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. Women and secure psychiatric services: a literature review. CRD Report 14. York: University of York. 1999


Commissioned by the High Security Psychiatric Services Commissioning Board<