Statement in Light of Abuses Uncovered by Panorama at Edenfield

Statement in Light of Abuses Uncovered by Panorama at Edenfield

We were horrified to hear of the shocking human rights abuses revealed by Panorama at the NHS Edenfield Centre in Prestwich, Greater Manchester. The BBC investigation showed that in-patients at Edenfield were subjected to brutal and unnecessary restraint, kept in prolonged seclusion, deprived of stimulation and harassed with psychological, emotional and verbal abuse.

The harm that has been inflicted on these individuals cannot be understated. Their safety has been violated by nursing staff who are expected to provide therapeutic, relationship-based care and who they should have been able to trust. These flagrant abuses have occurred despite the high level of funding which goes into specialist mental health services, the regulation of these services by CQC and the legal framework provided by the Mental Health Act and Code of Practice. Yet again a Panorama documentary seems to be the only way of exposing this level of individual and organisational abuse.

This news comes only three years after the investigation into Whorlton Hall in County Durham and 11 years after Winterbourne View near Bristol. The cycle of abuse and growth of toxic culture cannot be explained away by staffing shortages. Staff who can act in such cruel and callous ways should not be working with vulnerable, traumatised people who need particularly skilled and compassionate care.

We have to ask – where were the senior nurses, the psychiatrists, the psychologists, the occupational therapists and other members of the specialist MDTs (multi-disciplinary teams) who share responsibility for providing clinically effective care? Where were the operational managers responsible for service delivery? Where were the quality checks and audits?  Where were the strategic managers responsible for overall governance and patient safety?  The Winterbourne View scandal showed us that managers and members of the MDT failed to act to protect abused patients or claimed to be unaware of the abuse that occurred. They were also culpable.

The system currently in place to provide mental health care needs a drastic overhaul and people in positions of power need to be held accountable. We are glad to hear that a full investigation has been launched and that a number of the staff involved have been suspended, but this should have never happened in the first place. This is a failure of systems and culture.

Mental Health units require more external monitoring and completely independent advocacy systems to ensure that best practice is adhered to and that toxic cultures don’t have the opportunity to become embedded. This is a human rights issue and the engagement of specialist organisations to monitor wards and patient safety, seems like an urgent need.

The Restraint Reduction Network has spurred social care providers into working to reduce the use of restrictive interventions in social care. There is no such momentum in the NHS where the use of restraint is too often normalised and used without reflection or challenge.

Surely after all the documentaries and investigations over the years exposing abuse we know how to prevent it. Staff must be fully trained in a person-centred model of trauma-informed care and staffing vacancies cannot be filled with a ‘bums on seats’ approach. Vulnerable patients need a strong voice, must be heard and need the protection of the law and powerful advocates. Managers must be visible and approachable, setting and maintaining standards of staff behaviour and directly observing staff interactions with the people in their care.

Everyone working in the NHS and social care must be kind, empathetic and committed to upholding human rights, preventing and reporting abuse and protecting vulnerable people, otherwise we will see continuing instances of degrading treatment and systematic abuse.