We’ve recently written about the BBC Panorama report which revealed a “toxic culture” of abuse at the Edenfield Centre, a mental health unit in Prestwich, with staff mistreating patients.

There are now growing demands for a public inquiry into both the mental health unit at Prestwich, as well as mental health provision in England and Wales as a whole.

Senior clinical and operational management staff have been deployed to the unit, which has now been closed to new admissions. An independent clinical review of the centre is underway.

However, Manchester’s health scrutiny committee was not satisfied with this response and described the situation at the centre as a “catastrophic disaster”. Labour councillor Pat Karney said that the failure of senior leadership merits a public inquiry. Councillors on Manchester’s health scrutiny committee also slammed Greater Manchester Mental Health (GMMH) NHS Foundation Trust, who run the unit, saying that they find it “inconceivable” that management were not made aware of the alleged behaviour towards patients by whistle-blowers before they approached BBC.

Manchester Council are asking the government for a public inquiry into the Edenfield Centre and the calls for an inquiry come with fears that the alleged abuse of patients is happening at other mental health treatment units.

Following the Panorama episode, Bury South MP Christian Wakeford called for an inquiry and an apology, saying: “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.”

Health Minister Will Quince responded, apologising to the patients and their families and said that he believes it does meet the threshold for an independent inquiry.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, has asked the Government for a “rapid review” into mental health services, saying that such “dangerous practices”, as highlighted by Panorama, should be eradicated.

The police have begun a criminal investigation and more than 20 staff members from the Edenfield Centre are understood to have been suspended.

Andrew Maloney, deputy chief executive of GMMH, said that disciplinary procedures started as soon as they were informed of the allegations with a “significant number of staff” being suspended. He said: “We are wholeheartedly committed to do whatever it takes to put right these wrongs and to preventing them from happening again.”

Across England and Wales, the charity INQUEST, who support bereaved families following state-related deaths, has seen an exponential rise in concerning deaths of people using mental health services.

The mental health charity Mind is calling for a full statutory public inquiry into systemic failings of inpatient mental health services across England. Vicki Nash, Associate Director of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs at Mind, said:

The footage of patients at the Edenfield Centre obtained undercover by BBC Panorama is shocking and extremely concerning. People who have been admitted to medium secure units are likely to be experiencing moderate to severe mental health problems including suicidal thoughts, self-harming and psychosis. When we are at our most unwell and vulnerable, we need caring and compassionate treatment in a safe and therapeutic environment to recover and we and our loved ones should be able to expect – as a bare minimum – basic humanity and respect.”

Examples of other areas of concern include Essex Partnership University Trust and Tees, Esk and Wear Valley Trust. There is currently an independent inquiry into the deaths of mental health inpatients in Essex between 2000 and 2020. The inquiry has learned of the deaths of 1,500 people who were under the care of Essex mental health services over the 21-year period. They were either inpatients or individuals who died within 3 months of being discharged.

A national statutory inquiry could be crucial to issue robust recommendations to prevent future deaths across the system.

At Farleys, we have extensive experience of representing clients at both public inquiries and inquests. We understand the distressing, daunting nature of these and will support clients throughout with down to earth, expert advice. To discuss legal representation at a public inquiry or inquest, please call our team today on 0845 287 0939, email us, or contact us through the online chat below.