Staff working at one of Britain’s largest mental health hospitals pinched, teased and even slapped patients, according to a damning BBC investigation.
A ‘toxic culture’ at the Edenfield Center in Prestwich, Bury, saw nurses humiliate vulnerable people suffering from schizophrenia, autism and other conditions.
An undercover reporter for Panorama, who spent three months working there, witnessed staff cursing at patients, holding them inappropriately and even engaging in sexual behavior with them.
Patients at the hospital are confined under the Mental Health Act and are considered to be at serious risk of harm to themselves or others. Some of them have committed crimes, including murder.
The whistleblowers had claimed that staff were misbehaving and violating the security of people living in the institution, prompting the secret investigation.
Police have now opened an investigation into the hospital, which has a capacity of 150 patients, after the harrowing footage was shown. Officers who reviewed the evidence said anyone caught committing a crime will be prosecuted.
The investigation, which aired tonight, showed nurses cursing at patients, calling one who was suicidal a “fat f***” and joking about her cutting her own throat.
The patients were kept in small seclusion rooms designed for short-term isolation, some of which smelled like sewage and were moldy, for months at a time.
Experts said the behavior of the staff was dangerous and “really worrying”, adding that they acted “like a gang, not like a group of health professionals”.
A BBC report says a “toxic culture” at the Edenfield Center near Manchester (pictured) saw nurses humiliate vulnerable people suffering from mental illness.
Professor John Baker, chair of mental health nursing at the University of Leeds, said staff behavior was dangerous and “really worrying”.
WHAT IS SECTIONED AND WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?
Being sectioned means being admitted to the hospital, whether you agree to it or not.
The legal authority for your admission to the hospital comes from the Mental Health Law and not from your consent. This is usually because you are unable or unwilling to give consent.
The term ‘section’ simply means using a ‘section’ or paragraph of the Mental Health Act as the authority for your arrest.
A better word is ‘stopped’. He is detained under the Mental Health Act. The paragraph or ‘section’ number is often used so that a patient can be told that they are in a section 2 or 3.
You may be detained if you have, or are believed to have, a mental illness that requires evaluation or treatment that is serious enough that it is necessary to:
- your health or safety, or
- for the protection of other people
- and you need to be in the hospital for evaluation or treatment
- and is unable or unwilling to accept admission.
The decision is usually made by two doctors and an approved mental health professional (AMHP). One of the doctors must have special certification with particular expertise in the evaluation or treatment of mental illness.
Source: Royal College of Psychiatrists
Professor John Baker, Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Leeds, said: “He doesn’t feel safe.
“I think you’re clearly seeing toxic staff and there’s been a lot of hostility towards patients, which is really concerning.”
A patient suffering from schizophrenia was verbally abused while being supervised to go to the bathroom for her own safety, the investigation showed.
One staff member complained to her face about “having to watch your butt where the biohazard waste comes out.”
Later, she was filmed pulling aside the patient’s clothing and slapping her bare skin while a senior nurse laughed and jeered.
When the patient hid under a blanket because it was time for her weekly injection, staff members dragged her by her wrists into a room down the hall.
They called her a ‘cheeky bitch’ as they held her down and beat her, before locking her in the room and laughing behind the door.
The staff told her they would leave her there for an hour, but they let her out a few moments later.
Dr. Cleo Van Velsen, a consultant psychiatrist, told Panorama that the behavior was “against any policy I’ve ever seen about restraint in doing this.”
Physical restraint should only be used to prevent patients from harming themselves or others, in accordance with the Mental Health Act code of practice.
Eight staff members picked up another autism patient and dragged him screaming into one of the isolation rooms.
She was kept in the room naked with no possessions, fresh air or access to fresh air for more than two weeks.
One of the nurses was filmed saying they wanted to keep her confined because the staff “needed a break from her”.
Dr. Van Velsen said, “You can’t deprive someone of her freedoms because the staff is fed up with her.”
Another patient was in one of the rooms for more than a year, a nurse said.
Meanwhile, the nurses ignored Olivia, a self-harming patient who had repeatedly attempted suicide, as she cried.
Staff members joked if he cut his throat, you’d know because he’d ‘tell everyone’.
She was also teased about her weight, even though she had previously stopped eating and drinking because she believed she was overweight.
Police have now opened investigations into the behavior on the show. Several staff members have already been suspended.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Superintendent Michaela Kerr said: “It goes without saying that these allegations are worrying.”
“Since they came to our attention, we have been working with partner agencies to ensure the protection of vulnerable people.
“We have also obtained the information required to open criminal investigations and investigations are underway to ensure that all crimes are recorded and those involved are identified.
“In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, we are reviewing Panorama footage with a view to prosecuting anyone caught committing a crime.”
The patients were kept in small seclusion rooms designed for short-term isolation, some of which smelled like sewage and were moldy, for months, according to the undercover report.
Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) said it had taken the allegations “very seriously”.
A statement read: ‘We would like to assure patients, carers, staff and the public that we are taking the issues raised very seriously.
We have taken immediate action to protect patient safety, which is our highest priority.
“Since then, the Trust’s senior doctors have conducted clinical reviews of affected patients, we have suspended a number of staff pending further investigation and we have also commissioned an independent clinical review of the services provided at the Edenfield Centre.
We are working closely with local and national partners including NHS England, Care Quality Commission and Greater Manchester Police to ensure the safety of these services. We will cooperate fully with all investigations.
“We owe it to our patients, their families and caregivers, 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.”