Police open probe into abuse at psychiatric hospital revealed by BBC

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Photo: Feng Yu/Adobe Stock

Police have launched an investigation into the mistreatment of patients at a psychiatric hospital uncovered by the BBC.

Panorama filmed staff inappropriately assaulting, restraining and isolating and verbally attacking and humiliating patients at the Edenfield Center run by the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Undercover journalist Alan Haslam, who spent three months at the centre, also discovered that staff had falsely recorded that they had carried out the required observations on patients.

Greater Manchester Police said they were reviewing the footage with the Crown Prosecution Service to determine if anyone should be prosecuted, while nurses regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said it had initiated fitness-to-practice investigations of certain staff members.

The Care Quality Commission said it had suspended its “good” rating of the trust’s forensic and secure hospitalization services in response to the “shocking” images shown on Panorama, and would soon publish its report. inspection of the center in June and July. .

Meanwhile, the trust said it had suspended a number of staff pending an investigation and commissioned an independent clinical review of the service, which experts interviewed for Panorama said had a “culture toxic”.

What did Panorama discover?

Among the abuses or issues discovered by the BBC were:

  • A woman, Harley, forcibly placed in solitary confinement by eight staff, including managers, and then held to the ground, despite posing no apparent threat to other patients or staff. Under the Mental Health Act 1983 Code of Practice, solitary confinement should only be used ‘when immediately necessary for the purpose of containing serious behavioral disturbance which is likely to cause harm to others’.
  • Another patient was held in solitary confinement for more than a year and did not allow a photo of her grandfather, who died while in hospital.
  • Ten patients, in total, were placed in solitary confinement, often for weeks, and held in rooms he described as being in “a terrible state”, which smelled bad and had no fresh air.
  • A male support worker pinches a patient, known as Joanna, twice, the second time bending her arm behind her.
  • Staff repeatedly verbally abuse or humiliate patients, including in relation to their weight or bodily functions, or comparing them to animals, or make fun of them behind their backs, including in relation to their distress.
  • A patient, known as Alice, nearly received a dangerous second dose of an antipsychotic drug within two hours of the previous one due to a nurse’s error.
  • A support worker sitting on top of a male patient – ​​who was on a serious offender ward – and tickling him, and another support worker behaving in a sexualized way towards a male patient.
  • A patient, known as Claire, restrained and forcibly injected with her medication when she was not actively resisting.
  • Olivia, a patient who agreed to appear on the show, said her treatment in hospital had made her serious mental health worse.
  • Required patient observations often do not take place, with staff then falsifying records to say they have.

“No one deserves to be treated like this”

In response to the broadcast, the CQC’s Acting Director of Mental Health, Jemima Burnage, said: “The images broadcast by Panorama are shocking. No one deserves to be treated this way. We are in close contact with the trust and other agencies, including the police and relevant local authorities, to ensure the safety of patients treated at the Edenfield Centre. We are currently reviewing the information provided by the BBC and will determine if further action is required.

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said it “takes the allegations raised by Panorama very seriously” since being notified by the BBC earlier this month, and had “implemented immediate action to protect patient safety”.

“Since then, the trust’s senior doctors have undertaken clinical examinations of the affected patients, we have suspended a number of staff pending further inquiries and we have also commissioned an independent clinical review of the services provided at the Edenfield Centre. “

The spokesperson said the trust was working with the CQC, the police and NHS England and would “co-operate fully with all investigations”.

Police investigations

They added: “We owe it to our patients, their families and carers, the public and our staff that these allegations are thoroughly investigated to ensure that we provide the best care, every day, to all the communities we serve.”

The head of Greater Manchester Police’s Public Protection Department, Chief Superintendent Michaela Kerr, said he had also worked with partner agencies to protect the patients involved, in relation to the “worrying” allegations.

She added: “We have also obtained the information necessary to open criminal investigations and inquiries are ongoing to ensure that all breaches are recorded and those involved identified.

“In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, we are reviewing Panorama footage with a view to prosecuting anyone caught committing a crime.”

Nurses may face practice restrictions

The nurses’ regulator, the NMC, said the Panorama footage was “appalling and utterly appalling to watch”.

“We have opened fitness to practice cases for some professionals in our registry,” said chief executive Andrea Sutliffe. “We will urgently consider whether we need to take action to restrict their practice while we look into these concerns. Our hearts go out to the affected patients and their families who should never have gone through this. »

Bury Safeguarding Partnership, which is responsible for the area in which Edenfield is located, said it was also concerned about Panorama’s ‘very serious allegations’ and was ‘conducting our own thorough investigations and would take appropriate action to address the concerns’ .

Panorama was made aware of Edenfield Center by a member of staff, and whistleblower charity Protect said its findings – along with others, such as the maternity scandal in Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust – highlighted shortcomings in the health department’s ‘speaking’ policy to hold staff accountable. to raise concerns.

“There shouldn’t be a need for an undercover BBC reporter to identify these risks – if the speaking function worked properly, concerns would be immediately addressed by the trust,” said Protect policy officer Andrew Pepper-Parsons. . “This is becoming a dangerous pattern in the NHS and there needs to be an urgent independent review of speaking out in the NHS. NHS staff should be allowed to come forward freely and talk about their experiences in detail. »

Claims for “individualized care” services

Panorama’s findings contrast sharply with the trust’s description of the medium-security hospital, which has 11 wards.

He says: “Our service provides individualized care and treatment for people with long-lasting mental health needs. A wide range of treatments are available, including psychological and therapeutic interventions, and our clinical teams work collaboratively with the service user towards recovery and discharge. »

The trust also says clinical teams include a consultant psychiatrist, nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers.

The Restraint Reduction Network (RRN), which campaigns and produces advice on reducing restrictive interventions, said Panorama’s findings were evidence of a “toxic culture” at the service.

Its chairman, Professor Joy Duxbury, said: “I am shocked and extremely saddened to see yet another example where the rights of the most vulnerable are not only ignored but flouted and the complex needs of people are not at the heart of their care. Toxic cultures like these, underpinned by dehumanizing behaviors, have no place in our modern health and social care systems.

Restraint Training Requirements

The RRN said trusts were now required to ensure their training on restrictive interventions met network standards, under the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018.

He said these underscored the importance of protecting human rights, promoting therapeutic approaches to support those in distress, reducing the use of restrictive practices by promoting prevention and de-escalation, increasing understanding the root causes of the behavior and ensuring that the restraint was as safe and dignified as possible. possible, when necessary.

The charity said it encouraged the Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust to ensure its training was in line with the RRN and “that the center adheres to approaches that promote positive, person-centred cultures and a reduction in the use of restrictive practices”.

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