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The Independent

NHS Abuse Scandal


A joint investigation from the Independent, spearheaded by their health correspondent, Rebecca Thomas, and Sky News’s Rob Mulhern, revealed an alarming number of cases of sexual abuse and assault within the UK’s psychiatric system.

The 18-month investigation found that “almost 20,000 reports of sexual incidents in the last five years” were made in “more than half of NHS mental health trusts” since 2019. The Independent spoke to multiple patients and their families about stories of assault and abuse. Dr Lade Smith, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, called the findings “horrendous”, while shadow health secretary Wes Streeting MP said it was a “wake-up call” for the government. Dame Vera Baird, the former victims’ commissioner, called the results of the investigation “a national scandal.”

The main findings from the investigation are:

  • At least 19,899 sexual incidents were reported across more than 30 NHS trusts between 2019 and November 2023 – including staff assaults on patients and patients assaulting other patients
  • The figures suggest that just 982 – less than 5 per cent – of sexual incidents reported to hospitals were referred to the police over the same period
  • 800 allegations of rape and serious assaults on women
  • Mixed sex wards, despite being banned a decade ago, are still in use across NHS mental health care with more than 500 reports of sexual assault since 2019
  • Just six out of 50 hospitals were able to prove they were meeting NHS standards aimed at protecting patients from sexual harm

MP for Birmingham, Yardley, Jess Phillips, wrote for the Independent – she said the “sheer scale and mishandling of sexual abuse and violence in our nation’s mental health facilities” had left her “aghast.”

The Independent have called on the government to “act urgently” in the face of the investigation’s horrific revelations, calling for a “cultural change from the very top of government down to every mental hospital ward” to end this scandal “once and for all.” After the Independent and Sky News exposed the scandal, dozens of families have since launched legal bids against a group of children’s mental health hospistals “after the Independent exposed a culture of systematic abuse.” The Independent reported: “Solicitors at Hutcheon Law said they were receiving at least three negligence enquiries a week since The Independent revealed allegations of widespread abuse across multiple hospitals.”