Nurses working at the mental health unit in Manchester are to be investigated by the regulator, after footage of vulnerable patients being subjected to humiliation, verbal abuse and bullying at the hospital was aired on the BBC programme Panorama.
Nurses and other staff at Edenfield Centre, which is a large medium security mental health unit in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, were filmed mistreating patients by an undercover BBC reporter working as a support worker at the centre, as part of a Panorama investigation.
“We’ve opened fitness to practise cases for some professionals on our register”
Staff, including mental health nurses, were filmed mocking patients when they were in vulnerable situations, and joking about their self-harm.
In addition, they were seen using unnecessary restraint and slapping or pinching patients. They were also seen keeping patients with autism or learning disabilities in seclusion for long periods of time.
At other points in the documentary – titled Undercover Hospital: Patients at Risk – nurses at the unit were filmed falsifying observation records and sleeping when they were on shift.
Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, confirmed that the regulator had now opened fitness to practise cases for more than one of the Edenfield Centre nurses, following the airing of the Panorama episode.
She said: “The treatment of patients in vulnerable circumstances that Panorama has revealed is appalling and utterly dreadful to watch.
“We’ve opened fitness to practise cases for some professionals on our register. We’ll urgently consider whether we need to take steps to restrict their practice while we look into these concerns.
“Our thoughts are very much with the patients affected, and their families who should never have had to experience this,” Ms Sutcliffe added.
In addition, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed that they have opened an investigation into “a number of allegations” against staff at the Edenfield Centre.
Head of GMP’s Public Protection Department, chief superintendent Michaela Kerr, said: “It goes without saying that these allegations are concerning.
“Since they were brought to our attention, we have been working with partner agencies to ensure the safeguarding of vulnerable individuals.
“We have put in place immediate actions to protect patient safety, which is our utmost priority”
Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
“We’ve also obtained the information required to open criminal investigations and enquiries are ongoing to ensure all offences are recorded and those involved identified,” she said.
“In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, we are reviewing footage from Panorama with a view to prosecuting anyone who’s captured committing a crime. Anyone who has concerns about care they or a loved one has received should contact us or Crimestoppers.”
Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for the Edenfield Centre, has announced it has suspended a number of staff, pending further investigations, and has commissioned an independent clinical review of the services provided at the centre.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “We are taking the allegations raised by Panorama very seriously since the BBC sent them to us earlier this month. We have put in place immediate actions to protect patient safety, which is our utmost priority.”
They added that the trust was working closely with local and national partners including NHS England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Greater Manchester Police to ensure the safety of their services.
“We will co-operate fully with all investigations,” they said. “We owe it to our patients, their families and carers, the public and our staff that these allegations are fully investigated to ensure we provide the best care, every day, for all the communities we serve.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “These allegations of mistreatment and abuse are deeply concerning.
“Our first priority is to ensure anyone receiving treatment in a mental health facility receives safe, high-quality care, and is looked after with dignity and respect.
“We take these reports very seriously and are investigating the concerns raised, alongside investigations from the Greater Manchester Police and the CQC,” they said.
They added: “The CQC has a range of enforcement powers to address failings and ensure care does not fall below the standards we expect.”
Many nurses have also responded to the Panorama programme on Twitter, expressing sadness, shame and outrage at the abuses revealed by the investigation.
Yesterday’s Panorama programme is only the latest in a series using undercover reporters to reveal care failings involving vulnerable patients with learning disabilities, autism, and mental ill health.
In 2019, a Panorama investigation of Whorlton Hall in County Durham showed patients with autism and learning difficulties being provoked by staff and then physically restrained.
Meanwhile, a CQC report earlier this year warned that restrictive practices and seclusion were still being too widely used against people with learning disabilities, autism, and mental ill health within the NHS.
Professor Alison Leary, chair of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University, said that a lack of nursing leadership, and of expert staff more generally, was partly responsible for these failures of care.
She said: “Abuse uncovered by the Panorama programme is shocking, but this is the latest in a long line of failures in nursing care across many years as many inquiries have shown.
“A common thread is lack of nursing leadership and availability of experienced expert staff who can promote therapeutic environments and care,” she said.
Professor Leary added that adequate staffing was much more than “a numbers game”.
She said: “Patients and other vulnerable people not having access to professional nursing care when they need it because of lack of registered and experienced staff is as much of a risk.”
Professor Leary warned that “de-professionalising” nursing risked lowering the bar on standards and safety.
“Professional nursing must be valued as pivotal to patient safety including the raising of concerns by frontline workers,“ she said.
Source: Nursing Times, 29th September 2022