restraint committed by staff against learning disabled
by Angela Hussain
illegal physical restraint plus the overuse of medication were part
of the institutional abuse committed by Cornwall NHS Trust staff
against learning disabled people, according to a damning report.
Because of an abusive culture, hospital and care staff were adverse
to the input of “outsiders”, such as clinical psychologists,
said Healthcare Commission inspectors in a report on the trust's
learning disability services.
The report, co-written by the Commission for Social Care Inspection,
followed a 12 month investigation last year into a the trust's Budock
Hospital near Falmouth (a treatment centre for 18 inpatients), two
other treatment centres, four children’s units and 46 supported
houses each with up to four learning disabled residents.
The report stated that Budock Hospital staff “were extensively
trained in the use of restraint, but had little other training.”
"Staff tended to stand around, talking to each other, waiting
to react to the actions of those on the ward,” read the report.
patient spent 16 hours a day tied to a bed or wheelchair for what
staff believed was for that person’s protection.
Inspectors also said that “pro re nata” (PRN) medication
– which should only be prescribed occasionally when controlling
epilepsy or challenging behaviour – was often given to a person
who was “not sleeping” or "wouldn’t settle".
Once a patient was given PRN medication because he was impatient
for his dinner and became distressed.
The report, which examined statements
stretching back to 2001, describes years of abusive practices at
the trust and the failure of senior trust executives to tackle it
despite several internal inquiries.
Physical abuse and misuse of people’s money was also common.
Investigators found evidence of staff hitting, pushing, and dragging
Some staff were also reported to have withheld food and given people
Since the investigation, sparked by
relatives of the abused learning disabled people, Cornwall
Partnership NHS Trust has sacked staff. One ward at Budock has also
now closed and action has been taken across the trust to address
the unacceptable levels of physical restraint.
The report has recommended that the trust’s services for learning
disabled people be “redesigned” by local health and
social care organisations, taking into account the needs of every
learning disability service user.
The new chief executive of Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust has apologised
to service users and carers.
Lezli Boswell, who started her role
in May this year, said the trust's failings are "shocking and
"There are no excuses,"
"The trust fully accepts the
recommendations in the report and we are determined to work together
with partners to quickly and effectively address problems raised
and to implement all its recommendations. To this end a detailed
action plan will be developed to respond to the recommendations."
Ms Boswell has apologised
in writing to learning disabled patients and their carers.
A police investigation has been
launched into the abuse.
Braithwaite was part of the investigation team for the Healthcare
Commission. In an interview with the Western Morning News newspaper
she said it was the worst abuse and lowest standard of care she
conditions we found were totally shocking and all of us were very
upset by some of the things we discovered," she said.
was clear there had been abuse and some people had suffered real
harm as a result. Investigators who have worked up and down the
country said it was the worst they had ever seen."
Braithwaite singled out Budock Hospital as one of the worst examples.
we first arrived, there were no staff on duty. They were all in
the garden smoking," she said.
environment was totally stark - there weren't even curtains in the
rooms and mattresses were bare, with just a plastic cover.
was nothing for people to do to the extent that the activities cupboard
had one Beano annual in it."
Commission and Commission for Social Care Inspection's report on
Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust (pdf)
to putting good practice into action
Michelle Del Rosso, student, Salford University
March 5, 2008
am horrified that a person was tied to a bed or wheelchair for the
entire day apparently in their best interests. More like the staff's
staff took time out to get to know and understand the service users
in their care and build a trust then the chances of challenging
behaviour can be greatly reduced.
sensory (pictoral timetables, lights and sounds) resources and planned
structure to a day, as well as patience and good staff is all that
with learning disabilities have just as much right as any other
person to be treated with respect and as an individual. I personly
can not wait until i have completed my degree and can put good practice
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