NHS Figures Show 2000 People Still Detained In Mental Health Hospitals 10 Years On From Winterbourne View Care Scandal
The sister of an autistic man is calling for more to be done to stop autistic people and those with learning disabilities being detained in mental health hospitals.
Beckii Davis fears that her brother Elliot will continue to be detained in the hospitals known as assessment and treatment units (ATUs) where he has spent the last three years.
Lawyers asked to investigate man's care in assessment and treatment unit
The family have now instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care Elliot is receiving in the mental health hospital in County Durham.
Beckii, of North Yorkshire, also fears that her brother could be moved into forensic services which would see him moved from the hospital, potentially to another part of the country and be housed alongside people convicted of a crime.
She believes that her brother’s physical and mental health is deteriorating. The family want Elliot to successfully transition into live in the community where he can thrive with the right support and spend more time with his family.
2000 people with learning disabilities detained in mental health hospitals 10 years after Winterbourne View
A decade of from the Winterbourne View scandal – in which serious abuse of patients with learning disabilities in a private hospital was uncovered – Beckii also wants action to reduce the number of people in ATUs. More than 2,000 people with learning disabilities were in the hospitals at the end of March, according to latest NHS Digital figures.
Of those, 1,205 - 59 per cent - had been in hospital for a total of more than two years.
The average cost to the tax payer of keeping a person detained in hospital is thought to be £3,563 per week or £185,276 per year.
Kirsty Stuart is an expert public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Elliot and other families whose relatives are detained in ATUs.
Expert Opinion“Following the Winterbourne View scandal, NHS England developed the Transforming Care programme designed to improve the quality of life and care for those with a learning disability and/or autistic people. A key strand of the programme was to reduce the number of people detained in ATUs and increase the numbers benefitting from community care packages, allowing them to live more independently.
“Yet a decade on more than 2,000 adults and children with learning disabilities and or autistic people continue to be detained in secure mental health units and continue to be denied the right to a home and a family life.
“Despite previous government pledges to reduce the number of autistic people and those with a learning disability being detained in ATUs, the issue of them being so is once again in the spotlight.
“We once again call on the Government to listen to campaigners and do more to honour previous pledges and reduce the number of people detained in ATUs, many of whom have been detained for several years.” Kirsty Stuart - Senior Associate Solicitor
Assessment and treatment units: Elliot's story
Elliot has been diagnosed with autism and epilepsy for which he takes medication. He had been living at home with his family as part of a community care package. When his mental health declined he was admitted to a psychiatric intensive care unit, run by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust in April 2018. Shortly afterwards he was transferred to another hospital, also run by the Trust.
During his time in hospital Elliot has spent significant time in isolation. The Trust recently said Elliot should be assessed to see if he should be under the care of forensic services. However, Beckii said an independent review recommended steps should be taken to draw up a community care package for Elliot.
A further assessment is now set to be held, the family told Elliot’s legal team.
Expert Opinion“The first-hand account we have heard from the family about what’s has happened to Elliot is very worrying and we’re now investigating these concerns and how the legal process can help Elliot.
“Understandably all the family wants is what’s best for Elliot. We call on the Trust to work with the family to reach an agreement over his care, which the family believe should be in the community as this would give him the best quality of life.” Kirsty Stuart - Senior Associate Solicitor
Sister's fears for brother with autism detained in mental health hospital
Beckii, a sole trader, said: “Elliot’s needs are complex but he does not deserve to be shut away, detained in isolation. While he has communication difficulties you can see the difference in him when he’s with people he loves. He is a totally different person and is the loving and caring son and brother we know he is.
“For several years we’ve been asking for more to be done to support Elliot. However, we feel not much has been done to help him. Therefore, we’ve been left with no choice other than to take this action.
“While we appreciate the Trust’s views I’m also Elliot’s sister and myself and my family know him better than anyone. His condition is deteriorating and I dread to think what would happen to him if he was sent to forensic services.
“There’s no forensic facility at the hospital so that would mean he’d be sent elsewhere. It’s conceivable he would be many miles away from home and even more isolated from his family who want to help care for and support him.”
Beckii, added: “When Elliot was admitted to hospital we hoped he would receive the help he needed and would be able to return home within a few weeks.
“However, more than three years on he’s still detained in hospital. The change in his demeanour and behaviour over that time has been stark.
“He has no quality of life and we believe staying in detention is going to make his condition worse.
“All we want is for him to live in a home and his needs to be fully assessed and the most suitable care package given to him so he can make the most of life.
Family wants change a decade on from Winterbourne View
“However, it’s not just Elliot who finds himself in this position. Winterbourne View happened 10 years ago and it’s unbelievable that a decade on we’re still talking about issues around ATUs.
“It’s about time more was done to fully resolve the issues around ATUs. Too many peoples’ lives are still dominated by these units. It’s not just those who are detained who are affected but also their relatives who are left to try and pick up the pieces. There is not enough community provision for people like Elliot and they are stuck in hospital when they are not ill.”
Mencap calls ATUs modern-day asylums
Dan Scorer, head of policy and public affairs at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “It is appalling that 10 years after the Winterbourne View hospital abuse scandal, families, like Beckii’s, are still being forced to take legal action to get their loved ones out of these modern-day asylums.
“We very much hope that this intervention from Irwin Mitchell will help get Elliot out of hospital and back home, close to his family, with the right support.
“People with a learning disability and or autism have a right to live in their own homes, not be locked away in hospitals because they cannot get specialist support in their community. The government must step up and deliver the system wide change they have repeatedly promised before more people are abused and lives destroyed.”
About Winterbourne View and ATUs
In 2011 undercover filming by BBC Panorama uncovered a pattern of serious abuse at Winterbourne View, a private hospital near Bristol which treated people with learning disabilities and autism.
Filming showed patients being dragged and slapped by staff.
Following the programme a number of workers were arrested and the home closed.
At the end of June 2011 a group of 86 organisations wrote to the Government asking for the use of residential hospitals to end.
The following month a Care Quality Commission report found there had been a systematic failure to protect residents at Winterbourne View.
In July 2011 it was also revealed that other employees working at the hospital had raised concerns to the authorities 19 times before the BBC filming took place.
A total of 11 former staff members pleaded guilty to criminal charges in relation to the abuse of residents.
In December 2012 the Government said it was planning a “dramatic reduction” in the number of people with learning disabilities who were kept in hospitals in England. More focus would be placed on community-based support, it added.
Filming also raises concerns over Whorlton Hall in Barnard Castle
In May 2019 Panorama also broadcast a programme regarding Whorlton Hall, an ATU near Barnard Castle, County Durham. Filming appeared to depict patients with learning disabilities being mistreated.
Whorlton Hall was an independent hospital which housed up to 22 men and women aged 18 and over with a learning disability and complex needs.
It closed following the Panorama programme which aired on 22 May, 2019.
Following an inspection in 2015, the Care Quality Commission found the hospital "required improvement". The watchdog raised a number of concerns, including inadequate staffing levels, a lack of training and a failure to follow patients' care plans.
Also in May 2019 Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced an independent review of patients in segregation and the care they received.
It followed an interim review into the use of restraint, segregation and prolonged seclusion in the health and care sector, published by the Care Quality Commission which described the system as “not fit for purpose”.
Find out more about our expertise in helping families whose loved ones have been detained at our dedicated protecting your rights section. Alternatively to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.