The chief executive for mental health care in England has ordered a nationwide safety review after evidence of patient abuse at a public hospital.
The National Health Service’s Director of Mental Health, Claire Murdoch, called for the review after a BBC documentary showed evidence of bullying and inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion at the Edenfield Center in Prestwich, Manchester.
An undercover journalist captured footage of staff abusing, humiliating, slapping and pinching patients at the facility. They also revealed that patients were being placed in isolation rooms for long periods of time for inappropriate reasons.
The documentary led to a criminal investigation by Greater Manchester Police.
Murdoch called the behavior “heartbreaking and shameful” in a letter seen by the HSJ. He wrote that hospital trusts should “leave no stone unturned” in finding and rooting out unsafe patient care.
Hospital trusts must now urgently review safeguarding procedures in their inpatient units to identify any measures that need to be taken immediately to protect patients.
The move comes as a separate investigation into poor care in private mental health services is being launched.
The inappropriate use of restraint, segregation and seclusion in mental health settings has long been under scrutiny in England. But in March, the country’s Care Quality Commission found little progress had been made on a series of recommendations it made in 2020 to crack down on the practice.
Edenfield’s documentary comes eleven years after a similar BBC investigation revealed serious abuse at the private Winterbourne Hospital in Bristol. The facility was shut down and several staff members were arrested after undercover videos were released.
Mental health charity Mind says Edenfield and Winterbourne are “not isolated cases” and has called for a full statutory public inquiry into inpatient services across England.
Describing the new documentary as “shocking and extremely worrying”, Mind’s deputy director of policy, campaigns and public affairs, Vicki Nash, said in a statement:
“When we are most unwell and vulnerable, we need care and compassionate treatment in a safe and healing environment to recover, and we and our loved ones should be able to expect – at the very least – basic humanity and respect.
“The fact that the footage taken as part of this documentary has led to a criminal police investigation shows how much this mental health service may have fallen short of expectations.
“We are particularly concerned about the apparently excessive and punitive use of restraint and seclusion for people with mental health problems and autism. We know that these dangerous measures are traumatic, are likely to worsen people’s mental health and can even be fatal — either directly or indirectly.”
Nash said there must now be “a full review of the systemic failures” of England’s inpatient mental health services.
The charity has yet to respond to news of the national safety review, which is not a full public inquiry.