Dad whose daughter was kept in 12ft seclusion cell in Northampton wins damages payout

A father who fought tirelessly to see his daughter removed from a 12ft seclusion cell in a Northampton hospital has been awarded an undisclosed fee for damages.

Monday, 21st October 2019, 11:16 am
Bethany was kept in a seclusion cell at Fitzroy House, St Andrew's Hospital for two years.

Last year, the Chronicle and Echo reported how 17-year-old Bethany had been kept in a secure unit at St Andrew’s Hospital for more than two years – because the hospital did not have the correct level of staffing to look after her properly and a residential placement could not be found in her home town of Walsall.

The teenager, whose full name cannot be revealed, has High Demand Avoidance Autism meaning everyday routines can cause her extreme anxiety and often boil over into aggression and self-harm.

But at St Andrew’s she spent the best part of two years secluded, sedated and forced to receive her meals through a hatch. During that time she deteriorated rapidly.

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Bethany's father has now been awarded damages for the way she was secluded.

Her father, Jeremy, has now seen awarded damages by the hospital after launching legal proceedings in February this year.

St Andrew’s Healthcare and NHS England have accepted that the care provided to Bethany “did not always comply with the Mental Health Act Code of Practice and the NICE Guidelines on managing violence and aggression.

“This affected her wellbeing and made it harder for her to return to live in the community,” an agreed joint statement reads.

Jeremy, who has been vocal on Twitter and in various media reports about his daughter’s treatment said the compensation will not make up for Bethany’s lost years at the hands of a ‘broken system’.

St Andrew's says it will change its policy towards seclusion as a result of Bethany's case.

He said: “I’m proud of what has been achieved through the exposure of my daughter’s horrific detention in what has finally been admitted to have been care that ‘affected her wellbeing and made it harder for her to return to live in the community'.

“That admission alone should be enough to make everyone in The system sit up and think, and hopefully make them act. You made my daughter worse. Because of what the system did to her, she cannot come home yet.”

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) and NHS Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have also conceded there were delays in moving Bethany out of St Andrew’s. Some 13 attempts to move her into a residential setting have so far failed.

On the last occasion, in late 2018, Bethany was moved into a community placement, which saw her given a house of her own, a dedicated care team and animals to play with in the grounds.

Jeremy said it appeared perfect on the face of it. But it only lasted four days before she had to be taken back to St Andrew’s.

He believes she had become too ‘institutionalised' from her time in seclusion and was not given enough time to adjust to her open new surroundings.

He said: “Beth had spent over two years in segregation, so suddenly being given the run of a two-storey house of her own totally freaked her out. She couldn’t cope with interior doors being unlocked. She had lost the ability to understand that different rooms have different functions. This was evidenced by her not accepting that she could sit at a table in a dining room, or sit on the sofa in the lounge to do her activities.

“She only felt safe sitting on her mattress in her bedroom because that is all she had known for so long.

“To hear that was, and remains heart-breaking.”

Bethany, though out of seclusion, remains in a medium secure unit elsewhere in the country that does not specialise in autism care. She left St Andrew’s in February, having turned 18 and, therefore becoming ineligible for the adolescent ward she was on.

Work is now finally underway to move her to a ‘bespoke’ community setting – but it could be nine months before she goes there.

NHS England and St Andrew’s have committed to reviewing their policies on long-term segregation.

The NHS has also commissioned a review into Bethany’s care, which it is set to submit to the health secretary Matt Hancock.

Read more: Father's grief at seeing his daughter held in 12ft seclusion 'cell' in Northampton for 21 months