The House of Lords/House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights has condemned the “horrific reality” of conditions and treatment under which many young people with learning disabilities and autism are detained in mental health hospitals. The committee said the system is “inflicting terrible suffering on those detained and causing anguish to their distraught families”.
The inquiry was carried out after 17-year-old Bethany appeared on BBC Radio who had been a patient at St. Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton for nearly two years. During her time at St Andrew’s, Bethany had been repeatedly restrained and spent most of her time in conditions that amounted to solitary confinement, with no access to treatment or therapy.
The first chapter of the report sets out a series of distressing witness testimony from parents and former patients, including a mother who told the inquiry that her son, "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”.
The Committee said, evidence to the inquiry was so “stark” and consistent that it has “lost confidence that the system is doing what it says it is doing and the regulator's method of checking is not working”. It has been left to the media to expose abuse, the Committee said.
The report also criticises the Care Quality Commission, saying “a regulator which gets it wrong is worse than no regulator at all”.
The Committee is calling for the establishment of a Number 10 unit, with cabinet level leadership, to urgently drive forward reform to minimise the number of those with learning disabilities and/or autism who are detained and to safeguard their human rights.