The police have opened an investigation into abuse of patients at a mental health hospital uncovered by the BBC.
Panorama filmed staff assaulting, inappropriately restraining and secluding and verbally abusing and humiliating patients at the Edenfield Centre run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Undercover reporter Alan Haslam, who spent three months at the centre, also found staff falsely recording that they had carried out required observations of patients.
Greater Manchester Police said it was reviewing the footage with the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether anyone should be prosecuted, while nurses’ regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said it had opened fitness to practise investigations into some staff.
The Care Quality Commission said it had suspended its ‘good’ rating of the trust’s forensic inpatient and secure wards in response to the “shocking” footage featured on Panorama, and would soon be releasing its report of an inspection of the centre in June and July.
Meanwhile, the trust said it had suspended a number of staff pending investigation and commissioned an independent clinical review of the service, which experts interviewed for Panorama said had a “toxic culture”.
What did Panorama find?
Among the abuses or issues uncovered by the BBC were:
- A woman, Harley, being placed by force in seclusion by eight members of staff, including managers, and then being restrained on the floor, despite posing no apparent threat to fellow patients or staff. Under the Mental Health Act 1983 code of practice, seclusion should only be used “where it is of immediate necessity for the purpose of the containment of severe behavioural disturbance which is likely to cause harm to others”.
- Another patient being held in seclusion for over a year and not allowed a photograph of her grandfather, who had died during her time in the hospital.
- Ten patients, overall, being placed in seclusion, often for weeks on end, and being held in rooms he described as being in a “terrible state”, that smelt and had no fresh air.
- A male support worker pinching a female patient, known as Joanna, twice, the second time bending her arm behind her.
- Staff repeatedly verbally abusing or humiliating patients, including in relation to their weight or bodily functions, or by comparing them to animals, or mocking them behind their back, including in relation to their distress.
- A patient, known as Alice, almost being given a dangerous second dose of an antipsychotic drug within two hours of her previous does because of a nurse’s error.
- A female support worker sitting on a male patient – who was on a ward for serious offenders – and tickling him, and another female support worker behaving in a sexualised way towards a male patient.
- A patient, known as Claire, being restrained and forcibly injected with her medication when she was not actively resisting.
- Olivia, a patient who agreed to be featured on the programme, saying that her treatment at the hospital had made her serious mental health condition worse.
- Required observations of patients frequently not taking place, with staff then falsifying records to say that they had.
‘Nobody deserves to be treated in this way’
In response to the programme, the CQC’s interim director of mental health, Jemima Burnage, said: “The footage shown by Panorama is shocking. Nobody 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 being treated at the Edenfield Centre. We are currently reviewing the information that has been provided by the BBC and will determine if any further action is required.”
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said it was “taking the allegations raised by Panorama very seriously” since being notified by the BBC earlier this month, and had “put in place immediate actions to protect patient safety”.
“Since then, senior doctors at the trust have undertaken clinical reviews of the patients affected, we have suspended a number of staff pending further investigations 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, police and NHS England and would “co-operate fully with all investigations”.
They added: “We owe it to our patients, their families and carers, the public and our staff that these allegations are fully investigated to ensure we provide the best care, every day, for all the communities we serve.”
The head of Greater Manchester Police’s public protection department, chief superintendent Michaela Kerr, said it had also been working with partner agencies to safeguard patients involved, in relation to the “concerning” allegations.
She added: “We’ve also obtained the information required to open criminal investigations and enquiries are ongoing to ensure all offences are recorded and those involved identified.
“In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, we are reviewing footage from Panorama with a view to prosecuting anyone who’s captured committing a crime.”
Nurses may face restrictions on practice
“We’ve opened fitness to practise cases for some professionals on our register,” said chief executive Andrea Sutliffe. “We’ll urgently consider whether we need to take steps to restrict their practice while we look into these concerns. Our thoughts are very much with the patients affected, and their families who should never have had to experience this.”
Bury Safeguarding Partnership, which is responsible for the area in which Edenfield is situation, said it was also concerned by Panorama’s “very serious allegations” and was “conducting our own thorough investigations and will be taking appropriate action to address concerns”.
Panorama was tipped off about Edenfield Centre by a member of staff, and whistleblowing charity Protect said its findings – alongside others, such as the maternity scandal at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust – highlighted failings in the health service’s “speak up” policy to empower staff to raise concerns.
“It should not take a BBC undercover reporter to identify these risks – if speaking up was working properly concerns would be addressed immediately by the trust,” said Protect’s head of policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons. “This is becoming a dangerous pattern in the NHS and there needs to be an urgent independent review of speaking up in the NHS. NHS staff should be enabled to come forward freely and talk about their experiences in detail.”
Services’ claims of ‘individualised care’
Panorama’s findings are in stark contrast to the trust’s description of the medium-secure hospital, which has 11 wards.
It says: “Our service provides individualised care and treatment for people with enduring mental health needs. A wide range of treatment is available including psychological and other therapeutic interventions and our clinical teams work collaboratively with the service user towards their recovery and discharge.”
The trust also says that clinical teams include a consultant psychiatrist, nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers.
The Restraint Reduction Network (RRN), which campaigns and produces guidance on reducing restrictive interventions, said Panorama’s findings were evidence of a “toxic culture” at the service.
Its chair, professor Joy Duxbury, said: “I am shocked and hugely saddened to see yet another example where the rights of those most vulnerable are not only ignored but trampled upon and people’s complex needs are not central to their care. Toxic cultures such as these underpinned by dehumanising behaviours have no place in our modern-day health and social care systems.”
Restraint training requirements
The RRN said trusts were now required to ensure their training on restrictive interventions complied with the network’s standards, under the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018.
It said these emphasised the importance of protecting human rights, promoting therapeutic approaches to supporting people in distress, reducing reliance on restrictive practices by promoting prevention and de-escalation, increasing understanding of the root causes of behaviour and ensuring restraint was as safe and dignified as possible, when it was required.
The charity said that it encouraged Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust to ensure its training was RRN compliant and “that the centre adheres to approaches that promote positive cultures, person centredness and a reduction in the use of restrictive practices”.