Advertisement

'They did nothing': Dozens of NHS mental health inpatients make fresh rape and sexual assault allegations

Dozens of new allegations of abuse - including claims of multiple rapes of one patient and another with a mental disorder who fell pregnant after sex with a staff member - have emerged against NHS trusts following an investigation by Sky News and The Independent.

The fresh cases came to light as NHS England says it doesn't enforce "vital" government-backed guidelines around sexual safety on mental health inpatient wards.

As part of a joint Patient 11 podcast investigation, Sky News and The Independent, last week revealed 20,000 new complaints of sexual abuse, harassment and rape, involving patients and staff, across more than 30 NHS England mental health trusts since 2019.

Click to subscribe to Storycast wherever you get your podcasts

Significantly, the investigation also revealed that out of more than 50 contacted, only six trusts demonstrated that they're applying 2020 government-backed protections - The Sexual Safety Collaborative - developed with and described as "vital" by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

But this week - after more than 40 former patients, their families, and current patients contacted Sky News and The Independent with yet more claims of sexual assault and rape in psychiatric care facilities - NHS England said these protection guidelines, which it cites as key in terms of patient safety, are not mandated or enforced.

The admission comes during a week-long national awareness campaign around sexual abuse and sexual violence.

Among the 40-plus cases brought to the attention of Sky News is a former taxi driver who alleges that she was raped by two staff members at the same time while she was a psychiatric patient in Doncaster in 2017.

Another is the mother of a current mental health inpatient who fell pregnant as a result of sexual intercourse with a staff member when an inpatient at the Priory Hospital in Surrey.

And a teaching student alleges that after complaining to staff that she'd been sexually assaulted in a mixed-care setting, she found herself returned to the same mixed environment as the male patient she'd complained against.

Following the findings of the Patient 11 podcast investigation - sparked by the witness testimony and escape from psychiatric care of Alexis Quinn after two complaints of sexual assault - the health secretary said claims of sexual assault and rape would be part of a national review of care on mental health wards.

The government move was immediately branded as "insufficient" by Ms Quinn.

Now former patients have come forward with fresh claims and calls for a national inquiry.

Read more:
Claims to be reviewed after Sky News investigation

'There needs to be an inquiry'

Jacqueline Dean, a mother and former taxi driver, alleges that she was drugged and raped by two male staff members at the same time when she was a sectioned mental health inpatient at Tickhill Road Hospital in Doncaster in 2017.

"I wasn't even able to move, I was paralysed," she claims. "I could see everything. I could feel everything, [but] I couldn't do anything. Not anything at all."

"There needs to be an inquiry," she added. "People need to know what's gone on."

Responding to her allegations, Rotherham, Humber and Doncaster NHS Foundation Trust - which previously failed to reply to a Sky News freedom of information request asking for data on sexual abuse complaints - said: "We can confirm that six years ago, the organisation received a complaint, which was investigated at the time.

"Ourselves and the police concluded that we should not proceed further, as they did not believe that a crime had been committed.

"If new information is now available, we would welcome contact from the complainant which we will consider."

Patient fell pregnant after 'sex with staff member'

Ms Dean has now called for an inquiry, a sentiment echoed by one mother from the New Forest, whose mentally ill daughter fell pregnant after having sex with a staff member while an inpatient at the Priory in Surrey in 2019.

Subsequently, the male staff member at the centre of the incident was charged by police.

A spokesperson for the Priory in Surrey said: "As soon as we became aware of this incident in 2019, we made the necessary safeguarding referrals, and informed the police and the employment agency concerned.

"The agency staff member was immediately excluded from working within our services and subsequently convicted."

The Priory said it has since enhanced its reporting processes and training.

As part of the Sky News/The Independent Patient 11 investigation, 500 allegations of rape or sexual assault in mixed wards or care spaces were identified across more than 20 trusts.

'They did nothing'

In 2022, Serena - not her real name - was being treated as a mental health inpatient in Langley Green Hospital under the care of Sussex Partnership NHS Trust.

Serena entered care with complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of abuse suffered as a child.

While there, the now university student claims she was sexually assaulted in a shared male and female common area.

"I was assaulted by another patient," she explained. "It was touching the leg going up to, you know, where you don't ever need to go.

"Because of my history, I went to the nurses' station to tell them what happened, that I was upset and didn't feel comfortable [but] they did nothing apart from to tell him [the male patient] not to talk to me."

Serena claims that despite her complaint, she was left exposed to the male patient she'd complained about after being returned to a mixed-gender care environment.

"It was [like] just another day at the office," she said.

A spokesperson for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: "With this alleged incident, we urge the person affected to get in touch with us or report it to the police.

"In circumstances where there are allegations of this nature, our priority is to ensure the safety of the patient - offering support and putting appropriate safeguarding measures in place.

"We are committed to learning from any incidents, especially if someone feels they have not received the appropriate support."

'Sexual violence is unacceptable'

In response to our latest findings, NHS England said it has asked trusts to appoint domestic abuse and sexual violence leads as part of a zero-tolerance approach to keep patients and staff safe from sexual misconduct and violence.

NHS England also said that it is a mandatory requirement for trusts to share all the information they receive with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) on a weekly basis.

Last week, when Sky News first revealed the findings of its investigation, NHS England said: "We are taking action to ensure the safety of patients and staff, including rolling out better reporting mechanisms, training and support as part of the NHS's new Sexual Safety Charter.

"NHS England has advised all trusts and local health systems to appoint a domestic abuse and sexual violence lead to support patients and staff to report incidents and access support, with more than 300 now in place."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Sexual violence or misconduct of any kind is unacceptable and has no place in the NHS, and NHS organisations have a responsibility to protect both staff and patients.

"We are working closely with the NHS to ensure anyone receiving treatment in a mental health facility receives safe, high-quality care, and is looked after with dignity and respect."

If you have a story about a similar experience in NHS psychiatric care contact StoryCast@sky.uk