Hospital at centre of mistreatment claims to shut after Sky News investigation

A mental health hospital for teenagers is to close months after Sky News revealed accusations of the overuse of restraint and medication along with inadequate staffing and training.

Former workers claimed the alleged failings at Taplow Manor in Maidenhead, Berkshire, put young people at risk.

And police are investigating the death of a patient at the hospital as well as an allegation of a child rape involving staff.

The Huntercombe Group, now part of Active Care Group, ran the unit as well as other hospitals. NHS England paid The Huntercombe Group almost £190m in the years since 2015.

More than 50 former Huntercombe patients have spoken to Sky News as part of a joint investigation with The Independent.

The young people all said they were failed by the care they received from the group, one of a number of independent providers the NHS uses to provide specialist in-patient care for children and young people.

Taplow Manor was threatened with closure by health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, last week if it failed to make improvements following a damning report.

Active Care Group has now confirmed the unit would close by the end of May, saying a decision by the NHS to stop admitting patients had rendered its “service untenable”.

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Amber, who told Sky News “I’ve been suicidal all my life”, was 15 when she went into the Maidenhead unit with serious mental health problems. She said it led to her making “an attempt” three or four times a day.

‘They’d hold you down and you’d be crying screaming’

She blamed the care she received for the deterioration in her condition, describing how she was restrained.

“There’d be two people – two grown adults laying across your leg, one on either arm and someone on your head holding your head in place, and that’s five adults to one kid,” she said.

“They’d hold you down and you’d be crying screaming. Sometimes it would be painful and they wouldn’t listen.”

Amber was restrained to prevent her from self-harming, or to be fed through a nasal tube.

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Patients of mental health units tell their story

“When I used to be restrained people would hold me down for hours and hours. I’d fall asleep sometimes. And then when the restraint got too much they’d come in, pull your trousers down and IM [injection medication] you.”

Another patient who wants to remain anonymous, and who was in the Maidenhead unit between 2018 and 2019, told Sky News she is now unable to live independently. She believes this is due to the trauma of her experiences.

This is how she describes her life now after her time at the unit: “I have pretty much daily seizures, walking difficulties, tics and more.

“My mum is my full-time carer as I cannot be on my own due to this. I cannot live independently.”

A third patient, who also wants to remain anonymous, and was admitted to the Maidenhead unit in 2020, shared photographs of injuries to her legs and knuckles which she says were sustained during restraints.

She said: “Sometimes when they were trying to get me in holds, they would swing me round really hard and I would fall into the wall so I would get bruised knuckles.

“Every single day I was getting bruises all over my body.”

Former worker Callum Smith told Sky News: “There were a lot of incidents that could have been avoided. There are a lot of patients who maybe caused significant harm to themselves, which could have been avoided had we had more staff.”

He said he was concerned about inadequate staffing and training and claimed there were staffing issues “pretty much every day”.

The Huntercombe Group also ran a unit in Stafford.

Danae Rackliff was 15 when she was admitted there in 2017 for help with an eating disorder. She stayed for more than two years.

Danae says she was often injured during restraints, which “pretty much happened every day”, and had her hair pulled out.

Danae’s father, Dave Rackliff, told Sky News: “As a parent of a child who has suffered from the abuses of Huntercombe, now Active Care Group, the closure of Taplow Manor is a step in the right direction for mental health care in this country. Many abuses have been committed, and continue to be committed, in MH in-patient units across the UK.

“This closure is testament to the strength and tenacity of the children and their families who have suffered in these places.”