“Why was it left up to a mother and her son to expose human rights abuses in Stratheden?” I ask the Mental Welfare Commission CEO

Earlier today I saw this article in a tweet by a fellow psychiatric survivor:

‘Health trust shamed for dangerously restraining its patients: Body faces being put in special measures after using technique that can be fatal’ Daily Mail today 4 February 2015:


I immediately wrote a letter by Email to Colin McKay, CEO of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland: 

“Dear Colin

I have just been reading about the work of the Care Quality Commission in this article, today, where it has exposed the failings in an English health trust.

A mental health trust where patients have been punished with a dangerous form of restraint faces being put into special measures.

Inspectors found serious problems at the body that oversees mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk.

These included patients being held in the face-down prone position and being put in seclusion as a punishment.

The prone position involves two or more staff holding a patient face-down on the floor and pinning down their arms, legs and torso. It can result in compression of the chest and airways and can be fatal.”

I am wondering why the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland did not manage to expose the failings at Stratheden Hospital, Fife, where my son was subject to face-down restraint and locked in a seclusion room for hours at a time, no toilet or water to drink, light switch outside.  He has asthma and has experienced 3 collapsed lungs when younger.  The treatment of NHS Fife staff was very risky for my son.

Why was it left up to a mother and her son to expose the human rights abuses in Stratheden?  It took me over 30 months to win my complaint against NHS Fife, in respect of “unreasonable treatment”, with the Ombudsman.  I had to campaign while at the same time supporting my son, singlehandedly, after his dehumanising, traumatic treatment in the Stratheden IPCU.  Getting excluded from Scottish Patient Safety events and badmouthed by Scottish Government highly paid senior civil servants.

Stratheden Hospital was the scene of a death by restraint, of patient Shaun Martin in 1994:


Why therefore was the MWC not keeping a close eye on what was going on inside the wards of Stratheden Hospital?  Bearing in mind the known culture.  Why was the seclusion room still being used in 2012 and even in September 2014, according to a mother whose son was an inpatient and who works in her day job for the Joint Improvement Team, a Scottish Government department?

Near the end of this Daily Mail article it says: “In a statement, the trust said it accepted the findings and ‘vowed to put patients and staff first’ under a management team which had seen ‘extensive changes’”.  Whereas all I got was a grudging one sentence apology from NHS Fife and no inclusion in any improvement meetings going on where I live.

I am copying in to this Email my MSP Roderick Campbell and various others who work in government and in NHS Fife.  Plus the Healthcare Improvement Scotland senior managers who have excluded me from key events, ever since my son and I spoke out about the sub-standard care in Stratheden Hospital and the sub-human treatment of psychiatric patients:


I am looking for a response from you, to my questions and comments, and will be posting this Email in a blog post, and any reply.  I know there is to be a new build IPCU at Stratheden but I am still concerned about the culture in the wards, the morale of staff and the safety of patients, and of their carers.  That customers of the service will be free to speak out about any issues or bad practice without being at risk of retaliation or, for carers, slandering of reputation and character.  I know what that’s like.  Unfortunately.

Yours sincerely,

Chrys Muirhead (Mrs)




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