PVG (protecting vulnerable groups) scheme – lawlessness in psychiatric settings and the dangers of whistleblowing

[the body of an Email I sent this morning to a collective of mental health human rights campaigners and allies, in response to an Email about the issues around the failures to investigate mental health professionals ill-treating patients or knowingly making false statements on relevant documents, under the PVG scheme]

“There is also the issue, in my experience, of mental health professionals doing things to vulnerable adults in psychiatric settings and not writing it in the “notes” or relevant documents.  For example using drugs and not recording it.  Using restraint and “forgetting” to write it down.  Locking patients in seclusion rooms with no toilet or drinking water for hours at a time, in the dark, light switch outside.

It seems to me that the reluctance to investigate and prosecute in the case of mental health professionals behaving unprofessionally means that many of them are getting away with human rights abuses.  This is a scandal.

They are getting away with it because mental patients are often “returners” to psychiatric wards.  If they complained about the treatment then they would be in for worse treatment the next time around.  So they keep quiet to protect themselves from the consequences of whistleblowing.  This is where Independent Advocacy should come in, also the other “safeguards” in the Mental Health Act.  But unfortunately the safeguards aren’t safe when the system is corrupt or not being held to account.

I raised a number of concerns about Lomond Ward, Stratheden Hospital, in 2010.  With NHS Fife, with the Mental Welfare Commission and with Scottish Government mental health division.  I spoke out about the risks to patients in the ward, especially female patients who were most vulnerable.  I had witnessed them in states of undress in the mixed gender ward and male patients seeing this.  I had witnessed male nurses behaving inappropriately with female patients.  Lack of dignity and respect.  I raised this with the charge nurse.  I spoke out about it at a Mental Welfare Commission event in 2011.

Then unfortunately at Christmas time 2011 my youngest son was in mental distress.  Christmas can be a difficult time for people with mental health difficulties.  My son had a CPN and we alerted his CPN after the holidays but nothing was done, no help or support given.  My son went to the police first week of January to say he had suicidal thoughts.  They sent him to St Andrews A&E who sent him to Lomond Ward.  The junior doctor … who met with my son sent him home again.

Three weeks later on 1 February 2012, my son still in distress, not sleeping, no help from anyone, went up to Stratheden Hospital in the middle of the night looking for help.  He sat on a bench waiting for the sun to come up.  He went up to the Lomond Ward window and waved to a member of staff inside who he knew.  She phoned the police, told them “ex-patient Daniel Muirhead from ……. is causing a disturbance”.  I know this because Sgt ….., police officer at Cupar, told me later.  My son got taken by the police to a “safe place”, a prison cell in Glenrothes where he was stripped, put in a blue suicide suit, tested for drink and drugs.  He had neither.  The police took him back to Lomond Ward, at about 4am.

I got a phone call from my son at about 6am wanting me to advocate for him in the ward 1 Feb12.  I went up to the ward, got let in by a nursing assistant, a man I had raised concerns about in 2010 because of his inappropriate behaviour with female patients.  This man then let my son out into the darkness with his suicidal thoughts.  He expected I would follow my son but I didn’t.  I stayed in the ward and asked to speak to the charge nurse, made a complaint about the male nursing assistant.  The police were called for again to look for my son who could have taken his own life by this time.

My son had gone back down to our house, fortunately had his keys.  The police went into my house, without my permission, got my son and brought him back, again to Lomond Ward.  They told me to “look after him” in the ward.  I tried to do so but when I left the ward for an hour or so at lunchtime, to complain about another male nurse who had behaved inappropriately with me, I got back into the ward to see my son face down restrained by 3 nurses.  By the end of that day he had a broken hand, was taken in bare feet and underpants by 2 male porters up to the IPCU where he was further brutalised.

That is what can happen, unfortunately, when you raise concerns or complaints about the treatment of vulnerable people in psychiatric settings.  You may be subject to psychiatric abuse, have your rights taken away from you and the mental health act safeguards will be of no use whatsoever against a coercive and lawless system.”

 

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