'Abuse' at north Wales mental health unit 'should have been avoided' if suppressed report published

The families of patients who suffered "institutional abuse" at a north Wales mental health unit say failings "should have been avoided" had a suppressed report been published. 

In a joint statement given to ITV News, 11 families whose relatives were patients at the Tawel Fan unit said it is their belief the issues raised in a report about the Hergest Unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd bear the same hallmarks.

Tawel Fan was the name of a mental health ward in the Ablett Unit of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. It first hit the headlines in 2014 after a report alleged "institutional abuse" had taken place there.

A subsequent report cast doubt over that initial finding  when the Health and Social Care Advisory Service said it found "no evidence" abusive practices took place there.

The statement from the Tawel Fan families reads: “It has become very clear to the TF [Tawel Fan] Families that had decisive action been taken at the time, that the appalling events on Tawel Fan could, and more importantly, should have been avoided.” 

ITV Wales has seen a report which details how patients were 'neglected' and staff 'fearful' for their jobs at the Hergest Mental Health Unit

Responding to an ITV News report that revealed never-before-seen details of the "neglect" of patients on the Hergest Mental Health unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, they said: “The TF Families are astonished that [the health board] have withheld this report … causing unnecessary distress.

"BCUHB [Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board] who claim to operate in an open and transparent manner continue to withhold this report despite the ruling from the Information Commissioner.”

The families claim that the themes within the Holden report are "synonymous with the investigative findings on Tawel Fan". They said the following issues were present at both mental health facilities:

  • Poor Leadership and Management

  • Protection of Vulnerable Adults

  • Safeguarding Issues

  • Poor complaint handling

  • Inadequate Staffing Levels

  • A lack of staff training and education

  • Poor adherence to staff mandatory training

  • A lack of medical cover for the unit

  • Patients needs were neglected and not met

  • No clear model of clinical care

  • Outdated policies and procedures

The families said they are repeating their call for a public inquiry into the health board's mental health services.  

ITV Wales approached Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board for a response to which it reiterated its previous statement that there have been a "range of actions to improve standards of care" at the Hergest Unit since the report was produced in 2014.

The Welsh Government, who put the health board into special measures in 2015, said, “While under special measures, the health board has been working to put in place effective systems to ensure that patient safety and quality issues are identified at the point of which they arise and are addressed without delay.

“An Improvement Group was established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations from both the HASCAS and Ockenden reports and a stakeholder sub-group was also formed whose membership includes Tawel Fan families’ representation. The work of these groups has led to improvements in care for the older person including the implementation of the dementia strategy.”