Ministers have since been called on to launch a public inquiry into care for mental health patients The Independent revealed charges that patients were subjected to “systemic violence” in hospitals.
A joint investigation from Sky News found that teenagers in facilities run by The Huntercombe Group were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of treatment, despite hundreds of warnings to regulators and the NHS.
The government is now facing calls to review all mental health services amid fears the cases are the “tip of the iceberg”.
Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, has called for a “swift review” by the government of inpatient care mental health serviceswhile Deborah Coles, chief executive of the charity Inquest, called on the new health secretary, Steve Barclay, to launch a statutory public inquiry.
This week The Independent reported allegations of “systemic abuse” by 22 patients at children’s psychiatric hospitals run by The Huntercombe Group, which ran at least six children’s psychiatric hospitals between 2012 and 2022.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it had launched an investigation into allegations made by 22 young women. However, to the question of The Independentno specific details of the investigation have been released.
After the investigation was announced, more patients came forward with allegations of poor care.
Ms Coles said: “What was stunning and shocking about the investigation was the fact that all these warnings went unheeded [and] did not cause such a response. This is an absolutely horrific example of a systemic problem and, unfortunately, the tip of the iceberg.
“I think this calls for a much wider public inquiry to ensure that we uncover once and for all what goes on behind the closed doors of these institutions. They act practically with impunity, and are not subjected to that strict control and inspection.”
She added: “Rather than treating this as an isolated case, doing isolated reviews or inquiries, we need to have a legitimate public inquiry into mental health services, the deaths and serious harm that happen in these places.”
The Center for Mental Health has called for “reform” of the mental health system, which it says “creates conditions for abuse and mistreatment in inpatient mental health services.”
Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the charity, said: “Inpatient psychiatric services need to be a safe, respectful and compassionate place for people of all ages when they are at their worst. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. We need to reform the system that creates the conditions for abuse and mistreatment in inpatient mental health services.
“The Government must continue to fund improved mental health services at a time when need is growing due to the pandemic and cost of living crisis. It should modernize the Mental Health Act to ensure that coercion is used as little as possible and fairly. And the NHS at local level must ensure that the services it pays for are safe and effective, and that no-one is left long-term in hospital or care homes because they don’t have the right support to go home.”
In a letter to the new Minister of Health, shared by Mr The Independent and Sky News, Dr Allin-Khan said: “As I’m sure you will agree, yesterday’s Sky News and Independent The report into the treatment of young women in inpatient units run by The Huntercombe Group was deeply distressing.
“Patients and their families rightly expect safety in a hospital. It is incredibly upsetting to hear about the excessive use of restraints and the conditions in which the patients were kept. In patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of treatment, the long-term impact of their experience cannot be ignored.’
She said the investigation was particularly “disturbing” in the weeks following the revelations Panoramawhich highlighted abuses at the Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust, and a Dispatches report failures in Essex psychiatric hospitals.
Since the end of September, Dr. Allin-Khan has written to former Health Minister Theresa Coffey twice about these issues, but she has not received a response.
In her letters, she asked the government to say whether it would carry out a rapid review of inpatient mental health services, writing: “Inpatients are clearly understaffed, with thousands of mental health vacancies across the country – can you indicate what the government is doing to address this the problem? There are also very clear concerns about the complaints mechanism – could you outline what the government is doing to ensure that patients’ complaints about their treatment are taken seriously?’
She told The Independent: “The government’s failure to learn from past failures and implement recommendations to reduce restraint, segregation and isolation is costing people lives and traumatizing too many patients, as these reports show. They need to do a quick review of inpatient mental health services.
“The chaos at Tory over the summer saw the Government not deal with allegations of abuse in inpatient settings – there was no mental health minister for weeks. Labor has a mental health prevention plan to ensure everyone can access the mental health treatment they need within four weeks, and for children and young people to access mental health support in schools and open access centers in their communities.” .
NHS England has been contacted for comment.
Active Care Group took over the remaining Huntercombe hospitals in December 2021. In response to this The IndependentDuring the investigation, Dr Sylvia Tang, chief executive of Active Care Group, said most of the alleged incidents occurred before the group took ownership.
She added: “However, we are very saddened and concerned to hear about these patient experiences as the welfare, health and safety of our patients has always been and remains our top priority. Our clinical teams are led by skilled and compassionate professionals.”
Former owners The Huntercombe Group, now called Eli Investments, said: “We regret that these hospitals and specialist services, owned and independently managed by The Huntercombe Group, have failed to meet the high standards of care expected.
“The Huntercombe Group was sold in March 2021 and the 12 hospitals and specialist services that were the subject of that sale are now part of the Active Care Group. We wish Active Care Group every success in their ongoing endeavors.”