Victims of Jimmy Savile were disbelieved, “belittled or even laughed at” when they told health professionals what had happened to them at the time, found a report into the celebrity DJ’s abuse of patients and staff in hospitals in Leeds.
The report, which was published today alongside investigations into Broadmoor Hospital and 26 other hospitals or care facilities across England and Wales, found just nine of the 60 victims at hospitals which are now run by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, reported the incidents to staff directly or through their parents. The investigators found no evidence that the allegations were passed to senior managers.
Many other victims in the Leeds and Broadmoor reports said they felt unable to come forward when the abuse took place. Some thought they would not be believed or felt intimidated by Savile or hospital staff.
The report found the incidents in Leeds, which spanned nearly 50 years, ranged from lewd remarks and inappropriate touching to sexual assault and three rapes. The victims ranged from five to 75 years old. They included boys, girls, men, women, staff and patients.
There were other allegations by third parties which the investigators were unable to verify, such as Savile’s alleged statements that he had rings made from glass eyes taken from bodies in the mortuary of Leeds General Infirmary and that he had performed sex acts on deceased people there.
At Broadmoor, 11 people, including six patients, two staff and three children, alleged Savile had sexually abused them and the authors said they had been able to verify six of the accounts.
But Dr Bill Kirkup, who carried out the investigation into Broadmoor, said the numbers are “likely to represent an underestimate of the true picture” and said there was no doubt Savile was an “opportunistic sexual predator” throughout the 36 years in which he was associated with the hospital.
He said the organisational culture the hospital at the time “tolerated inappropriate sexual liaisons between staff and patients and strongly discouraged reporting”.
As well as institutional cultures and rigid hierarchies which made it difficult to report abuse, the Leeds report also described how victims’ complaints were dismissed or professionals failed to act. They included an administrator sexually assaulted by Savile who reported the case to “someone senior” but the incident was dismissed as “silly”. There was a student nurse who reported Savile groping her and making lewd comment to her ward sister who decided not to take the matter further. In addition, a teenager sought an abortion after being raped by Savile yet the doctor did not report the incident to the police or social services or offer her any psychological help.
The report also said there were allegations that other people may have helped facilitate abuse by Savile in three cases, either by ensuring he and his victim were uninterrupted or by introducing them.
In both Leeds and Broadmoor, Savile had unsupervised access to patients and he also had a set of keys to Broadmoor.
The Leeds report describes a lack of curiosity by senior staff into Savile’s presence in the hospital, and their disconnection from the rest of the organisation.
The current chief executives of the NHS trusts that now run Broadmoor and the Leeds General Infirmary apologised to victims and said that the culture and policies of their institutions had been improved.
Steve Shrubb, chief executive of West London Mental Health Trust, which runs Broadmoor, said the trust had commissioned Malcolm Rae, former nursing officer for mental health and forensic psychiatry at the Department of Health, to do an audit of its systems and governance in addition to work already done to improve policies and practices in the hospital.
Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said the trust was implementing all 31 recommendations of the report and had already taken steps to improve security, candour and patient safety.
Reports into Stoke Mandeville, Rampton, Springfield and Crawley hospitals and a report into lessons for the rest of the NHS from the Savile abuse scandals will be published in the autumn.
The Metropolitan Police’s investigation into abuse by celebrities in 2012, Operation Yewtree, suggested there were 450 allegations against Savile.