Minister apologises ‘unequivocally’ and hints at inquiry into mental health unit ‘abuse’

‘”In this case we’ve seen, in my view, some of the most horrific abuse”

Will Quince, Department of Health
A Panorama episode on the Edenfield Centre aired last month (stock image)
A Panorama episode on the Edenfield Centre aired last month (stock image) (Image: ABNM Photography)

The health minister has apologised after alleged abuse at a Greater Manchester mental health unit was exposed – and suggested an inquiry could take place. Will Quince spoke in the House of Commons this morning (October 13) following the BBC Panorama investigation into the Edenfield Centre, in Prestwich, which aired last month. 

Police have launched an investigation into the findings and more than 20 staff have been suspended by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) following the documentary, which showed staff secretly filmed by an undercover reporter at the unit. The programme appeared to show patients being bullied, humiliated, swore at, and taunted. 

Bury South MP Christian Wakeford had asked Thérèse Coffey, the secretary of state for health and social care, to make a statement on the situation at Edenfield. But it was health minister Will Quince, who works in Ms Coffey’s department, who answered at the Commons instead. 

He told MPs he was ‘horrified’ by the treatment of patients exposed at Edenfield, which he labelled as ‘completely unacceptable’. He confirmed the Department of Health and Social Care was working with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) to make sure ‘all affected patients are safe’ – with clinical reviews completed for all patients.

“Anyone receiving mental health treatment is entitled to dignity and respect,” said Mr Quince. “On that principle, there can be no compromise, and this Government will work with whoever it takes to put this right.”

Health minister Will Quince
Health minister Will Quince (Image: Teesside Live/Katie Lunn)

Mr Wakeford told the Commons that the Panorama investigation had ‘brought tears across the country including my own’. Following the programme, the Labour MP said he had received an ‘unprecedented amount of correspondence’ from former staff and relatives of patients at the unit, which highlighted both ‘failings of leadership’ and a ‘culture of bullying’.

Mr Wakeford said: “The programme showed some of the most vulnerable people in society being physically abused, goaded, sexualised behaviour from staff to patients, falsifying of medical records and patients locked in isolation for months on end. Seclusion seemed to be used for the convenience of staff, rather than as punishment.

“All this happened whilst the CQC [Care Quality Commission] were on site and did not issue a notice – and even praised the bosses.” The CQC gave GMMH a rating of ‘good’ following its most recent inspection this year, only to suspend the rating following the Panorama documentary.

Mr Wakeford told MPs that families are still being blocked from contacting relatives who are ‘desperate to move out of the Edenfield centre’. He asked the Government whether it would apologise to those affected by the alleged abuse.

Bury South MP Christian Wakeford
Bury South MP Christian Wakeford (Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Mr Quince responded: “Of course I will unequivocally do so. It should not have happened and it is our role as ministers, and in fact all those who work in the NHS, to do all we possibly can to prevent it from happening again.”

Calls have been growing in Greater Manchester for a public inquiry into Edenfield following the Panorama documentary. Both Mr Wakeford and Mike Kane, Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, asked Mr Quince for this in the Commons.

Mr Kane added: “The people of Greater Manchester deserve better than this.” The Health Secretary responded that the circumstances at Edenfield ‘meet the threshold’ for an independent inquiry.

Other Labour MPs were critical of the Government’s handling of mental health care. Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South, suggested ‘there will be other places too that have not had the media attention’.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow mental health minister, told the Commons that patients should ‘rightly expect to be safe’ – but the footage at Edenfield made for ‘extremely disturbing viewing’. She added: “It should not have taken an undercover investigation to bring to light poor patient care.

“Why are the Government not across this?” Dr Allin-Khan told MPs she had also received correspondence from former staff at Edenfield who had been ‘bullied out of their jobs’ as well as families of patients at the unit since Panorama was aired.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

She told MPs she wrote a letter to Ms Coffey following the BBC programme, but was still waiting for a response. “Is the SOS even taken this seriously?” Dr Allin-Khan said.

“In 2019, the Government committed to reducing the need for restraint and restrictive intervention, yet the use of restraint has soared.” Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders also questioned the CQC’s role in the scandal.

Mr Quince responded: “I mentioned some of the steps the Government are taking and yes we always need to do more, but no Government can ever legislate for or produce procedure or guidance that is going to stop anyone not acting with empathy and kindness. In this case we’ve seen, in my view, some of the most horrific abuse.

“No Government can legislate to stop that but we’ve got to do all in our power to identify it and prevent it. The CQC has an important role in that.

Full story here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 13th October

Published by CHARM Greater Manchester

CHARM, the Community for Holistic, Accessible, Rights Based Mental Health was launched by The Organic Recovery Learning Community in September 2020.

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