Beleagured NHS Trust denies claims it ‘breached human rights’ by banning patient’s phones

“We fear these decisions are driven by the Trust’s desire to control communications about Edenfield rather than in the interests of patients.”


A beleagured NHS Trust has denied claims that it has breached human rights by imposing a blanket ban on mobile phones of patients in a mental health unit. The allegations concern the Edenfield Centre at the site of the former Prestwich Hospital in Bury.

Edenfield is already the subject of a criminal investigation by Greater Manchester Police after allegations that patient were abused by staff. Last week several staff who were among more than 20 that have been suspended were sacked.

It follows claims in a BBC Panorama programme that patients were abused at the unit. There are growing demands for a public inquiry into the centre. Manchester council has asked the government for exactly that following the Panorama investigation which aired last month.

The number of people dismissed has not been revealed. Some staff were filmed by an undercover reporter embedded in the unit from March to June of this year. The footage appeared to show patients being bullied, humiliated, swore at and taunted by some members of staff.

Now support group CHARM (Communities for Holistic Accessible Rights based Mental Health), set up in 2020 to campaign for changes in the way psychiatric services are delivered in Greater Manchester, has criticised the NHS Trust which runs the centre. It claims thre has been a “blanket ban” on personal mobile phones for in-patients at Edenfiield.

But a spokesperson for Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust which runs the centre said it was incorrect to say there was a “blanket ban”. They said phones were removed from some patients depending on their individual cirumstances as they could be a trigger for behaviour which might worsen a person’s mental condition. In other cases it is inappropriate for patients who have transferred from the prison service to have them, they said.

In a statement CHARM said: “It has come to CHARM’s attention that the management at Edenfield have removed mobile phones from all patients on wards at the Edenfield site, as of 13 October. We believe a blanket ban of this nature is a breach of Article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention. The right to a private and family life.

“Such practices also create environments that further alienate patients from the outside world. This is not a route to recovery. The failings at Edenfield happened because there was a lack of oversight and openness. When a ‘behind closed doors’ culture of secrecy is implemented, it makes abuse more likely to happen. Meanwhile, workers have been allowed to keep their phones. This is unfair.

“We fear these decisions are driven by the Trust’s desire to control communications about Edenfield rather than in the interests of patients, their well-being and their recovery. Can the trust not see how frightening and alienating must it be for patients, to be unable to communicate easily with their family and friends? And How upsetting stressful it is for relatives?”

The Edenfield Centre is a secure unit for men and woman and has 11 wards. It is now closed to new admissions. Normally 600 staff look after 200 patients there. 

Neil Thwaite, the Trust’s Chief Executive, has already been formally required to respond to the Equality and Human Rights Commission on what action the Trust is taking immediately to address the potential human rights abuses at Edenfield Centre exposed by the Panaorama programme. 

The Bury MP Christian Wakeford told the House of Commons that ‘the families of patients featured in the programme had told him they were “still being blocked from contacting their relatives, who are desperate to move out of the Edenfield Centre and some are even in seclusion now”.

A spokesperson for CHARM added: “Further repressive rules will only increase the alienation and lack of trust in the service that is currently felt by communities in Manchester. Does the trust not want to build bridges?”

Andrew Maloney, Deputy Chief Executive of the Trust told councillors at a health scrutiny committee about action taken in response to the alleged abuse of patients. Disciplinary procedures started as soon as GMMH was informed of the allegations, he said, and a ‘significant number of staff’ were suspended.

Senior clinical and operational management staff were deployed to the centre which has now been closed to new admissions to ensure appropriate working practices. And an independent clinical review of the centre is now under way and is expected to report its finding to the trust’s board by the end of the month.

Mr Maloney stated “We are wholeheartedly committed to do whatever it takes to put right these wrongs and to preventing them from happening again.”

However, Manchester’s health scrutiny committee was not satisfied with the response, describing the situation at the centre as a ‘catastrophic disaster’. Labour councillor Pat Karney said the ‘failure of senior leadership’ merits a public inquiry, saying it is ‘unimaginable’ that the issues were not picked up

The University of Salford has taken action in the wake of the allegations by withdrawing all of its students on placement – or due to attend a placement – at the Edenfield Centre.

Full story here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 17th October 2022

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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