‘Horrific’ mental health hospitals need ‘urgent’ reform, report saysIvy Madziva
The detention of people with learning disabilities and autism “causes suffering and does long-term damage”.
Young people with learning disabilities and autism are having their human rights breached by the “horrific” conditions of mental health hospitals that are inflicting “terrible suffering” upon their detainees, a report has found.
The government has been told it must urgently overhaul how the facilities are inspected to improve standards and protect those who are meant to be being cared for.
Following a damning inquiry, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has found the detention of people with learning disabilities and autism is “often inappropriate” and “causes suffering and does long-term damage”.
Its report also says it has “no confidence” that an NHS target to reduce the number of those people in mental health hospitals will be met, citing a “lack of political focus and accountability to drive change”.
Suitable housing, social care and health services are reportedly “not being commissioned at local level”, while the families of those in detention are too often wrongly seen as part of the problem, rather than the solution.
Earlier this week, Sky News spoke to the father of an autistic teenager who is locked up for 24 hours a day without any physical human contact.
He said he is no longer allowed contact with his daughter, who was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, as the hospital sees her as “a potential risk”.
The report by MPs on the committee includes similarly distressing testimonies.
Julie Newcombe, whose son Jamie was detained for 19 months, told the inquiry: “He had his arm broken in a restraint, the right humerus bone. His arm was wrenched up behind his back until the bone snapped. He was then not taken to accident and emergency for 24 hours, even though his arm was completely swollen.”
According to the report, concerns raised by families with a GP or school are said to lead to very lengthy waits for assessment and diagnosis, leading some parents to become ill or look to move home.
When children are taken away from their families, they are said to often be many miles away, with their parents then treated as “hostile and as a problem”.
The condition of the children does not improve and gets worse over time, leading to them being placed in “seclusion” and not returning home for weeks, months or even years.
The committee said it had “lost confidence that the system is doing what it says it is doing” and offered a damning assessment of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the healthcare watchdog.
It said: “A regulator which gets it wrong is worse than no regulator at all.”
The committee has called on the government to establish a dedicated unit with cabinet leadership to drive reform and safeguard those in detention.
It also wants families to be recognised as human rights defenders, substantial reform to how the CQC inspects healthcare institutions, and for local authorities and Clinical Commission Groups to be legally required to ensure the right services are available in the community.
The committee also wants to narrow the criteria of the Mental Health Act to avoid inappropriate detention.
Committee chair Harriet Harman MP said: “This inquiry has shown with stark clarity the urgent change that is needed and we’ve set out simple proposals for exactly that. They must now be driven forward, urgently.
“It has been left to the media and desperate, anguished parents to expose the brutal reality of our system of detention of people with learning disabilities or autism. We must not look away.
“The horrific reality is of whole lives needlessly blighted, and families in despair. What we saw does not fit our society’s image of itself as one which cares for the vulnerable and respects everyone’s human rights.
“It must not be allowed to continue.”
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