Thirty new patients have contacted Sky News following our investigation into the treatment of adolescents in mental health units run by a single provider.
They include a 16-year-old boy whose mother told us that her son’s self-harm has increased.
Rachel Vickers said of her son Tyson, “He looked like he had been in a car accident,” and Tyson Vickers added, “I felt like they had given up on me.”
In October, Sky News revealed serious allegations of failure to care for more than twenty former patients in units run by The Huntercombe Group, now part of Active Care Group.
Content Warning: This article contains references to self-harm
Since then, dozens of former patients have contacted us independently of each other.
They have made further claims about concerns such as excessive use of restraint and inadequate supervision, which allegedly leaves patients at greater risk of self-harm.
In response to our joint inquiry with The Independent, the Department of Health described the new allegations of ill-treatment as “deeply worrying”.
Sixteen-year-old Tyson Vickers is one of a number of new patients who have come forward in response to our initial investigation.
He spent two months in the Maidenhead unit from the beginning of March this year; he says that during the time he was there he felt “like a lost cause in the mental health system”.
Tyson told us that he entered the unit because “I couldn’t keep myself safe.” But he says that he did not receive the specialized intervention that he expected.
His mother, Rachel, said: “I could see that he was getting much worse. We were seeing a lot more self-harm, erratic behavior leading to him needing to be restrained, which we hadn’t had to do at home. I was realizing that he wasn’t was being cared for.
“He had cuts on his arms. He was bandaged on both arms. He had a huge black eye. I mean, he looked like he’d been in a car accident.”
Tyson is autistic and transgender. It is not easy to talk about his time in the unit. He said he would ask staff to “refer to me as a man and by the name Tyson with ‘he’ pronouns.”
“But sometimes they just messed up and you could tell they didn’t really respect it.”
Tyson says that he has “flashbacks” of his experiences. He says that “just thinking about everything I went through there” makes him cry when talking about it.
Says Tyson, “I was struggling a lot. I felt like they had given up on me. I’m not going to get better. I felt like there was no way they could help me. I was like a lost cause in the mental health system.”
“A member of staff told me that I would never get out, that I would be stuck there forever and that I would not be able to get help.”
Our original investigation revealed allegations dating back more than a decade.
There were recurring themes such as excessive use of restraint and a lack of staffing and observation to keep patients safe.
The 30 new patients who have presented were inpatients in the units since 2003, most were admitted since 2018.
They all contacted us independently of each other.
A patient who wishes to remain anonymous, who was in the Maidenhead unit between 2018 and 2019, told us that she is now unable to live independently, which she believes is due to the trauma of her experiences.
Here’s how she describes her life now after her time on the unit: “I have seizures almost every day, difficulty walking, tics and more.
“My mother is my full time caregiver as I can’t be alone because of this. I can’t live independently.”
Another patient, who also wishes to remain anonymous and who was admitted to the Maidenhead unit in 2020, shared photos of leg and knuckle injuries she says she sustained during the restrictions.
She said: “Sometimes when they tried to catch me, they would spin me really hard and I would fall against the wall, hurting my knuckles.”
“Every day I would have bruises all over my body.”
Another patient shared photos that she says are of blood on her bedroom walls. She told us that she was left alone “for hours” to harm herself.
In 2019, Mae, now 21, was admitted to Huntercombe’s Stafford unit.
She said: “They wouldn’t ask me to walk to the clinic to be fed, they would just pick me up and drag me there.”
Mae describes feeling like an “animal” in the unit, stating that she was “dragged, locked out of my room, bruised, constantly yelled at and verbally abused.”
She said: “I had no autonomy, say in my own care or my own body.”
Ami was in the Maidenhead unit between April 2020 and December 2021.
Now 18, she says she was not allowed to leave her room for six weeks after an episode of self-harm.
She said that when her underwear was removed so she could put on anti-ligature clothing, there was a male staff member in the room.
She said: “I was embarrassed and felt assaulted. It really pushed all my limits.”
Ami’s mother, Rebecca Hinton, told us, “We feel helpless, alone, like our voices are falling into a dark pit, scared, desperate.”
Further to our investigation, we have learned that lawyer Mark McGhee has taken the first steps to take legal action against The Huntercombe Group. He currently represents nine former patients.
Their cases include the family of a young former patient who claims to have been raped by a staff member from the Maidenhead unit.
Thames Valley Police have confirmed they are investigating the allegation.
McGhee said: “This is systemic failure and gross systemic neglect. This hospital was responsible for some of the most vulnerable people within our society.”
“All of these people have been deeply affected in terms of the abuse they have suffered. And it will affect the rest of their lives.”
Active Care Group took over Huntercombe in December 2021.
A spokesperson for Active Care Group said: “We are very saddened and concerned to hear these patient experiences and reports of substandard care, some of which relate to time in our care…our policies and clinical interventions are in In line with national guidelines and best practices, the care of our patients is our top priority.”
“All complaints are investigated and those meeting CQC (Care Quality Commission) thresholds and protection are reported as necessary. We are also pleased to receive positive feedback from many young people and their families.”
The previous owners, Elli Investments Group, said: “We are saddened by these allegations and regret that these hospitals and specialist care services, which were owned and operated independently by The Huntercombe Group, did not meet the standards expected for quality care. high quality”.
NHS England said it is deeply concerned by these “shocking allegations”.
A spokesperson said: “Accordingly, these two units, which are run by Active Care Group, have been visited several times by senior commissioners in recent weeks – these visits have included speaking to all current patients, and we will continue to monitor and take appropriate measures”. where needed.
“The NHS has repeatedly made it clear in recent meetings to Active Care Group executives that all services must provide safe, high-quality care and meet their contract commitments.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The new allegations of mistreatment that have been raised are deeply concerning. Our first priority is to make sure that anyone receiving treatment in a mental health facility receives safe, high-quality care. and be cared for.” with dignity and respect.
“We take these reports very seriously and are working with NHS England and the CQC to ensure that all inpatient mental health settings provide the standard of care we expect.”
Chris Dzikiti, Director of Mental Health at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said: “It is unacceptable that any young person in need of mental health support receives anything less than the highest standards of care.
“We are grateful to each and every person who has taken the time to share their experience, or that of their loved ones, about the care they have received.
“We have a variety of powers that we can use if we find that people are not receiving safe care and we will take all possible steps to protect people when necessary.”