For felt ex­pose pa­tients 12 pow­er­less years, abuse in the Elaine of to se­cure she was units a se­nior where nurse. Un­til she saw one of them so vi­o­lently re­strained they broke his neck. Now she wants to. . .

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By IAN BIR­RELL

AMEN­TAL health nurse has re­vealed she saw staff in a se­cure psy­chi­atric unit re­strain a pa­tient with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties so vi­o­lently that they broke his neck – then left him ly­ing in his own waste over a week­end. The man was only taken to hos­pi­tal two days later, af­ter doc­tors in­ter­vened, and was found to be paral­ysed. The se­nior team leader, who does not wish to be iden­ti­fied but I will call Elaine, says she was then asked to as­sist a cover-up at the NHS hos­pi­tal but re­fused and quit her job in­stead. ‘I had to leave be­cause this in­ci­dent and the af­ter­math went against ev­ery­thing I be­lieve in,’ she told The Mail on Sun­day. ‘Th­ese places are

hor­rific, have ply ex­pert stepped The geared cre­ated whistle­blow­ing in for­ward they re­straint to a abuse.’ are sys­tem fol­low­ing bar­baric tech­niques, that nurse, is – sim- our we an cam­paign ing adults up with of to teenagers autism stop the and rou­tine and learn­ing young lock-dis­abil­i­ties. nurses and Last a se­nior week, carer two other blew the lid on what they called ‘shame­ful in­sti­tu­tion­alised abuse’ tak­ing place be­hind the locked doors of a dif­fer­ent in­sti­tu­tion, Meadow Lodge, a pri­vately run unit in Devon funded by the NHS.

I an Sum­mers s ai d he s aw pa­tients more of­ten vi­o­lently held down, at­tempt sui­cide and forcibly drugged while work­ing in the unit hold­ing vul­ner­a­ble teenage girls than when he looked af­ter killers and psy­chopaths at Broad­moor high-se­cu­rity hos­pi­tal.

This news­pa­per has spo­ken to more than two dozen dis­traught fam­i­lies – some break­ing gag­ging orders – who have told how their chil­dren have been taken from them for years and stuck in­side un­suit­able se­cure units that only lead to men­tal de­te­ri­o­ra­tion.

Much of their anger has been fo­cused on pri­vate firms charg­ing up to £730,000 a year for each pa­tient – but the hideous story re­vealed by Elaine took place in an NHS psy­chi­atric unit in the South of Eng­land six years ago.

The vic­tim was a 36- year- old man with mild learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. ‘He was lovely if treated the right way,’ said Elaine, who is in her late 30s. ‘But there were four mem­bers of staff who did not like him, so they wound him up and he be­came abu­sive in re­sponse.’

She said the car­ers held him down be­fore dump­ing him in a tiny seclu­sion cell. ‘Nor­mally he would pace up and down in there but he lay on the floor in his own fae­ces and urine. They said he was putting it on and left him there for two days.

‘Only when the con­sul­tant came in was he sent to hos­pi­tal, where they found his top two ver­te­brae were bro­ken. He was in agony.’

The man was left paral­ysed for two years, even­tu­ally re­cov­er­ing some abil­ity to walk with sticks af­ter in­ten­sive ther­apy at an­other hos­pi­tal. Elaine claimed she was then asked to cover up the in­ci­dent by col­leagues. ‘I was sup­posed to say it was an ac­ci­dent a nd t here had been proper re­straint meth­ods used. I re­fused, so they made it im­pos­si­ble for me to work and I quit.’

She was re­lieved to leave a sys­tem she had joined full of ide­al­ism, in­spired by an autis­tic god­son and a rel­a­tive who killed him­self, but came to hate over 12 years work­ing in se­cure units and ‘short­stay’ as­sess­ment and treat­ment units (ATUs).

The nurse said there was fre­quent abuse and bul­ly­ing of pa­tients – one man with Down’s syn­drome who loved draw­ing would have his crayons hid­den by staff to in­fu­ri­ate him – and reg­u­lar over-med­i­ca­tion to se­date peo­ple. ‘There is this view that staff are nor­mal peo­ple and pa­tients are not, which leads to in­sti­tu­tional abuse across th­ese ATUs and se­cure units.

‘It is dif­fi­cult not to get sucked in and be­come part of the sys­tem. I have worked in more than ten of th­ese places and I wouldn’t put my dog in one. They should be bombed.

‘Ev­ery­thing is locked, there is lots of seclu­sion and re­straint when six adults push some­one on the floor. It’s hor­ri­ble.’

THE use of re­straint in ATUs has soared in re­cent years, ris­ing from 15,065 in­ci­dents in 2016 to 22,620 in 2017. There is also grow­ing con­cern over use of long stretches in soli­tary con­fine­ment, with pa­tients held in padded cells un­der per­ma­nent ob­ser­va­tion. ‘If some­one shows signs of chal­leng­ing be­hav­iour they are se­cluded, which is aw­ful,’ said Elaine. ‘Imag­ine be­ing placed in a room 6ft by 6ft with a plas­tic mat­tress and no ac­cess to a toi­let un­less a full re­straint team ac­com­pa­nies you.

‘You are fed through a hatch, spo­ken to through a hatch. How does this help any­one?’

She said such units were es­pe­cially grim for peo­ple with autism. ‘None of them is a nice en­vi­ron­ment for such peo­ple since they re­spond well to rou­tine, com­fort,

the se­cu­rity of a fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment. So this noise and chaos, with alarms ring­ing and maybe ten peo­ple in a ward all de­mand­ing help, is never go­ing to go well for them.’

Fam­i­lies have com­plained that this kind of in­car­cer­a­tion is ‘a spi­ral of cru­elty’ since in­no­cent peo­ple are shut in con­di­tions that only serve to in­ten­sify their anx­i­eties and stresses, which then makes it harder for them to win free­dom.

Yet this lat­est whistle­blower, who now works to free pa­tients, said fam­i­lies do not have a clue what re­ally goes on be­hind locked doors.

‘I tell par­ents they should never seek help from the sys­tem be­cause they will lose con­trol of their child,’ Elaine said. ‘Ask for help and you risk los­ing your child.’

This is a ter­ri­fy­ing in­dict­ment of our pub­lic ser­vices. Yet it is one I have heard echoed by de­spair­ing fam­i­lies, such as one dis­traught man who asked for three days’ re­spite help only to have his autis­tic son locked away for three years so far.

Elaine be­lieves a bro­ken sys­tem is be­ing fu­elled by big prof­its, with pri­vate groups ex­pand­ing op­er­a­tions de­spite Gov­ern­ment pledges to move peo­ple with autism and learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties back into sup­ported liv­ing in the com­mu­nity.

There are 2,375 peo­ple with autism and learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties held in as­sess­ment and treat­ment units at a cost of about half a bil­lion pounds a year, with the num­ber of chil­dren more than dou­bling over the past three years, and scores more are held in other se­cure units. One man is thought to have cost tax­pay­ers £10 mil­lion af­ter be­ing held against his fam­ily’s wishes for 18 years.

More than half the pa­tients in ATUs have been de­tained for at least two years, and al­most one in six for more than a decade. ‘It is all about money,’ said Elaine. ‘Why else do they keep peo­ple in th­ese con­di­tions, cost­ing maybe £7,000 a week, when other men­tal health ser­vices are strug­gling and com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties crum­bling?’

Elaine, who has helped ex­tri­cate 13 peo­ple over the past five years work­ing as a care part­ner with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, added: ‘I once thought I could save ev­ery autis­tic per­son in the United King­dom – but sadly I am only able to help a hand­ful.’

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