Health Minister apologises for mistreatment allegations at mental health centre in Prestwich

Health minister Will Quince "unequivocally" apologised to patients at the Edenfield Centre and their families, following an investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme. Credit: MEN media

A minister has apologised to patients reported to have suffered mistreatment at a mental health unit, saying the allegations could be subject to a public inquiry.

Health Minister Will Quince "unequivocally" apologised to patients at the Edenfield Centre, in Greater Manchester, and their families, following an investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme.

The centre, which has 11 medium secure wards, is operated by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) in Prestwich, Bury.

MP for Bury South Christian Wakeford called on the health minister to apologise following the mistreatment allegations at Edenfield Credit: ITV Granada

The MP for Bury South, Christian Wakeford told MPs: "It has been 15 days since the Panorama show aired and the deeply distressing scenes at the Edenfield Centre in my constituency, which brought tears across the country including my own, yet we have heard nothing from the department.

"The programme showed some of the most vulnerable people in society being physically abused, goaded, sexualised behaviour from staff to patients, falsifying medical records and patients locked in isolation for months on end."

Mr Wakeford claimed there was a "culture of bullying" and a "failure of leadership" at the centre.

He added: "I have spoken with the families of those featured in the programme and they have advised they are still being blocked from contacting their relatives, who are desperate to move out of the Edenfield Centre and some are even in seclusion now."

Health minister Will Quince apologised to patients at the Edenfield Centre and their families, following an investigation by Panorama Credit: ITV Granada

Mr Wakeford called on ministers to apologise to the patients and their families and asked whether they would back his calls for a public inquiry into allegations of mistreatment at Edenfield.

Responding to the question, Health Minister Mr Quince said: "He asks whether I will apologise to the patients and their families, of course, I will unequivocally do so.

"It should not have happened, and it is our role as ministers, and in fact all those who work within the NHS, to do all we possibly can to prevent it from happening again.

"He asks for an independent inquiry; I believe it does meet the threshold to do so."

The MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, Justin Madders said the regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), "inspected the trust only a couple of months before the documentary was aired", which he said raises "serious questions about the efficacy of CQC inspections".

Mr Quince said: "No Government can ever legislate for, or produce procedure or guidance, that is going to stop anyone not acting with empathy and kindness.

"And in this case, we've seen, in my view, some of the most horrific abuse. No Government can legislate to stop that but we've got to do all in our power to identify it and prevent it.

"The CQC has an important role in that. My understanding is as soon as a whistleblower brought it to their attention they investigated, then we understand there was the BBC investigation.

"But of course, we will look at how the CQC responded and we will hold them to account."

Mr Quince said he was "cautious" to say when the first whistleblower complaint was made because he was not the minister responsible, but said his understanding was that it was "made around Easter".

"Is this in any way acceptable? The answer is no.

"Do we therefore need to look at processes and how the CQC investigated, how they acted, and their ability to identify? Yes of course we do," he said.

But the minister added: "Where people are acting in a way in which they know they shouldn't they deliberately hide it from the authorities and investigative bodies.

"So, we do just have to cut them a little bit of slack because often this is not in plain sight."

A minister has apologised to patients reported to have suffered mistreatment at the Edenfield centre Credit: ITV Granada

Labour shadow mental health minister Rosena Allin-Khan said: "It should not have taken an undercover investigation to bring to light poor patient care. Why are the Government not across this?"

Dr Allin-Khan added: "The Government's failure to learn from past failings and implement recommendations on reducing restraint, segregation and seclusion is costing people their lives and traumatising too many patients, as evidenced in these reports."

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said it was taking the allegations raised by Panorama "very seriously", adding: "We have put in place immediate actions to protect patient safety, which is our utmost priority.

"Since then, senior doctors at the Trust have undertaken clinical reviews of the patients affected, we have suspended a number of staff pending further investigations and we have also commissioned an independent clinical review of the services provided at the Edenfield Centre.

"We are working closely with local and national partners including NHS England, the Care Quality Commission and Greater Manchester Police to ensure the safety of these services. We will co-operate fully with all investigations."

What did the investigation uncover?

  • Staff swearing at patients, taunting and mocking them in vulnerable situations - such as when they were undressing - and joking about their self-harm

  • Patients being inappropriately restrained - according to experts who reviewed the footage - as well as being slapped or pinched by staff on some occasions

  • Some female staff acting in a sexualised way towards male patients

  • 10 patients being held in small seclusion rooms - designed for short-term isolation to prevent immediate harm - for days, weeks or even months, with only brief breaks

  • Paperwork intended to ensure patient safety was frequently falsified - showing staff had done patient observations when they had not.