CQC reports 'unacceptable service' and 'patient abuse' at psychiatric unit in Suffolk
Updated: Jan 27
An article published on the BBC News page on Friday revealed the terrible findings from an investigation at a mental health unit in Suffolk, the results of which didn't surprise me in the least.
Having been through psychiatric wards as an inpatient within the last few years, I feel qualified enough to reveal a few shocking truths about what really goes on inside these places.
As well as my own experience, I also have that of others, because I've met so many amazing people through my stays in these institutions, and they all have similar horror stories and encounters to tell.
In the article that prompted this post, inspectors from The Care Quality Commission (CQC), found several examples of problems and failures, which resulted in patients being treated with 'disproportionate and unauthorised techniques'.
Dr Kevin Cleary, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, found an 'unacceptable service' during the unannounced visit in December. The report revealed that staff interventions had demonstrated elements of patient abuse, with one patient being pushed over and having his arm trapped in the seclusion room's door, and another being dragged down a corridor, and having the door closed on his head.
Reading the article brought all sorts of memories flooding back; like the two times I was forcibly 'taken down' kicking and screaming in my last psychiatric hospital admission.
I understand why people need medicating in manic and psychotic episodes, but the way it's all handled is barbaric, with forced injections administered by overpowering people and tackling then to the floor, and then sitting on their heads and forcibly injecting tranquillizers.
Not only do I have direct experience of this being done to me, I've witnessed it happening to others too, because they take people down in corridors in full view of everyone! The environment is pandemonium and would drive the sanest people insane!
Even when you're better they don't give you informed consent, or allow you to make decisions regarding treatment, and I was 'taken down' again right at the end of my admission, when I hadn't agreed to a depot injection of a drug that I knew would give me side effects, and that I haven't needed since.
Both times that I was forcibly taken down and injected against my will, the incidents were witnessed by a patient (who has since become a close friend), and he is testament to what really happened. He tells me that they left me to get to crisis point in the first incident, and then bulldozed me in a corridor, and in the second they didn't allow me sufficient time to discuss the matter with a doctor, willfully ignored my requests and pleas, and bulldozed me again, this time right outside the medical room next to the front door.
In the CQC report at the mental health unit in Suffolk, 204 instances of physical restraint were witnessed in a six week period. I can't believe that even half of them were necessary, if only the patients had been given the option of more detailed discussion about their care and informed consent.
Examples from other patients include being taken down, outside in the cold, and forcibly showered down while suffering verbal and physical abuse from staff.
When transitioning from male to female, a friend was placed on a male ward, and then had abuse from staff and patients, a cup of tea being thrown over them and then being rugby tackled to the floor. It's just barbaric, and how anyone ever manages to achieve anything resembling 'sanity' after these experiences is little short of a miracle.
Most of the staff even agree that the system fails it's patients, but they are under pressure with shortages and a lack of educated professionals working in these places. The few excellent staff leave their positions in favour of other choices, because they are poorly paid, and they don't like having to forcibly restrain and inject their patients.
In an example at another mental hospital, a nurse was labelled a 'whistleblower' after she resigned over a case in which she was forced to lie about what really happened when a patient's neck was broken in a forced restraint and bulldozing incident. The patient was left for two days on the floor of the seclusion room in his own urine and excrement, as it was deemed that he was 'pretending' to be in pain.
When I read these cases I'm left feeling so sad about the situation because I KNOW that mental health care is not being prioritised at all, and patients are suffering with abuse and failures in their care on a daily basis. And we're surprised at suicide rates? This is what we're subjecting even the mentally vulnerable to. It's totally unacceptable.
The problem of staff shortages needs addressing, but we also need masses of education for our mental health nurses and staff so that they learn how to deal with us, and communicate with us, in a way which we can understand and cooperate without constantly resorting to rugby tackling and forcibly restraining people.
If you would like to read the article about the findings of the CQC report then you can read it here. I have also attached a really amazing video to the home page in which Dr David Cohen clearly explains the way in which patients are not being given informed consent, and then being forced into treatment.
I would love to hear other experiences both good and bad, from patient and family perspectives so please do let me know about them.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,