Personal Injury

Panorama investigation shows alleged abuse of patients

A shocking programme has claimed patient abuse at an NHS mental health unit. Here, our abuse experts discuss the allegations and possible legal implications.

14 October 2022

Newsroom - someone lay in a hospital bed

On 28th September 2022, 'Undercover Hospital: Patients at Risk', was shown on BBC One. The show’s undercover investigation included secret filming inside the Edenfield Centre Hospital. Footage showed the hospital’s failure to protect vulnerable patients and included evidence of a toxic staff culture, including the bullying and taunting of patients. Patients were shown to be inappropriately restrained, staff were seen falsifying important medical paperwork, and at times it showed physical assault of patients by staff members.

Speaking on the programme, Dr Cleo Van Velsen, a consultant psychiatrist, said that the undercover filming showed a “toxic culture” among staff of “corruption, perversion, aggression, hostility, lack of boundaries”. Here, our expert abuse solicitor, Chelsea Pye, discusses the findings from the shocking footage, and the possible legal implications.

What is the Edenfield Centre?

The Edenfield Centre is a medium security centre providing treatment for men and women, including individualised care and treatment for people with enduring mental health needs. The NHS website states that the centre aims to work towards to recovery and discharge of those making use of their services. Patients are said to have access to a wide range of activities to support their recovery, with facilities including a gym, a large sports hall, workshops, and classroom activities.

The shocking Panorama programme focussed on the Buttermead Ward, which is the ‘Women’s Ward’ of the centre.

What did the Panorama programme expose?

As revealed in the Panorama footage, the Edenfield Centre is far from achieving its stated aims, with service users being ridiculed, chastised, and humiliated.

The allegations appear to involve a large number of people within the centre, including 40 patients and 25 staff. One of the most shocking aspects of the distressing footage is the demonstration that this behaviour is ingrained in the culture of the centre. Staff are seen taunting patients, including name calling, and show a complete lack of empathy or compassion for patients who’d recently felt attempted to take their own life. The shocking behaviour included physical assaults, wrongful use of seclusion, and verbal abuse.

Response from Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust:

In a response following the Panorama programme, a spokesperson for the NHS Trust responsible for the Edenfield Centre stated that allegations raised in the program will be taken very seriously:

“Senior doctors at the Trust have undertaken clinical reviews of the patients affected, we have suspended a number of staff pending further investigations 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, the Care Quality Commission and Greater Manchester Police to ensure the safety of these services. We will co-operate fully with all investigations…”

However, based on the shocking revelations of the footage, it now seems likely that Manchester City Council will request a public inquiry to be carried out by the government. This is something welcomed by our public inquiry experts, who know that only public transparency and accountability can ensure that confidence is restored and lessons learned in situations like these.

How are patients protected by law from this treatment?

There is a good chance that the treatment exposed in the programme may include criminal offences, such as assault charges, and these will need to be fully investigated by the police.

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 contains regulations that are in place to safeguard people who use healthcare services such as these from suffering any form of abuse or improper treatment. Improper treatment includes discrimination and unlawful restraint, which also encompasses inappropriate deprivation of liberty under the terms of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

To meet the requirements of this regulation, providers must have a zero-tolerance approach to abuse, unlawful discrimination, and restraint of any kind. This includes:

  • Neglect
  • Subjecting people to degrading treatment
  • Unnecessary or disproportionate restraint
  • Deprivation of liberty

Clearly, it doesn’t appear that this provider was complying with these regulations, and it’s hoped that the relevant investigations are carried out in response.

Is there a way for those affected to seek compensation without criminal charges?

Without protection from specific legislation, our specialist abuse lawyers aim to establish whether there are any civil remedies available for a breach of duty of care. For this to be achieved successfully, the claimant, or those acting on their behalf, must prove that:

  • That the defendant had a legal duty of care to the claimant
  • That the defendant’s conduct was in breach of that duty
  • That the claimant suffered injury or loss as a direct result of this

Where an act of abuse, or omission of care, results in physical or psychological injuries to the claimant, compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenities can be secured. Our expert abuse solicitors work with the victims of abuse and negligent care every day. Our specialist Public Inquiries team has acted for a large number of individuals and organisations in several key and high-profile public inquiries over recent years. This has included victims and survivors of abuse in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), bereaved families in the Manchester Arena Bombing Inquiry, and also of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

When it comes to making a claim for compensation, there are specific time limits in place. This is a complex are of law, and we recommend that anyone affected seeks legal advice when they feel ready to do so.

If you’ve experienced abuse of any kind, our team of specialist abuse claims solicitors are here to help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. At Slater and Gordon, our abuse specialists offer a free, confidential consultation to provide you with advice on your potential case. If you’ve suffered abuse by a medical professional, you can speak to one of our dedicated team in confidence on 0330 041 5869 or contact us online. We’re professional, yet compassionate and will handle your case with care and respect.

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