A mental health centre subjected people with autism and learning disabilities to face-down restraint 600 times in just six months.
Channel 4 revealed the figures in a Dispatches television documentary. It said the the incidents took place at St Andrew’s Healthcare, in Northampton, between 2015/16.
The controversial technique of face-down restraint was carried out on children and teenagers, the documentary said.
The programme, Under Lock and Key, could now spark calls for the resignation of St Andrew’s chief executive, Gil Baldwin. Last year, Mr Baldwin’s salary package amounted to almost £500,000.
Call for review
In light of the documentary, David Mackintosh MP has already called on Mr Baldwin to review the practice of restraint. Mr Mackintosh is the local member of Parliament for St Andrew’s.
One former patient is Fauzia Yasmin Hussain. St Andrew’s admitted her as a 15 year-old four years ago. She has autism and Tourette’s and the centre segregated her in a small room for nearly two years. The centre also medicated her with intramuscular injections.
Guidance to end face-down restraint
Former Coalition Minister Norman Lamb announced guidance to end face-down restraint within two years in April 2014.
He visited St Andrew’s and said the centre treated Hussain, now 19, “like a prisoner”.
He added: “It was one of the most shocking things that I’ve seen in my time in Parliament.”
Growing in confidence
Hussain has since left St Andrew’s and lives in residential care. Dispatches showed her growing in confidence at her new care provider, Alderwood. She was no longer medicated by intramuscular injection and never restrained.
Parents Robin and Isabel Garnett waged a high-profile battle to get their son Matthew out of St Andrew’s and into what they describe as a more suitable care environment. Like Hussain, he is also now without restraint or injections.
At St Andrew’s, in contrast, the parents said it seemed as if he was being “punished for being autistic”.
Isabel Garnett told Autism Eye she hoped that the spotlight on Matthew’s experiences would bring change. She also called for the implementation of recommendations made in a 2014 report into the care of people with learning disabilities.
Sir Stephen Bubb made the recommendations in Winterbourne View – Time for a Change. He urged immediate action to close all Winterbourne-style institutions and to put more funding into community provision. That has not happened.
Patients died while on Clozapine
Four patients died within seven months of each other on one ward at St Andrew’s between October 2010 and May 2011. The centre prescribed them all with the drug Clozapine.
St Andrew’s said it used seclusion and restraint “only as a last resort”. It added that it has held an investigation to “provide extra vigilance surrounding the use of Clozapine”.
However, David Mackintosh MP has now written to the coroner, Ann Pember. He is asking for a review of these deaths to investigate whether there is any link to the use of this drug.
‘Discharged to less secure environments’
In an attempt to defend its practice, the centre said it discharged around three-quarters of patients to “more local, or less secure environments”.
The Dispatches documentary highlighted how thousands of people with learning disabilities and autism remain locked up in hospitals. The practice continues despite the government’s Transforming Care programme, which pledged to end it.
Under Lock and Key was first shown at 10pm on Wednesday 1 March, but is still available to watch on All 4.
Related: Call for Radical Change in Care