North East Wales

Glan Clwyd Hospital: Patients kept like 'animals in a zoo'

Tawel Fan
Image caption The Tawel Fan ward of Glan Clwyd Hospital was closed after concerns were raised in December 2013

Patients were kept like "animals" at a Denbighshire mental health ward, relatives have said.

An investigation into the Tawel Fan ward of Bodelwyddan's Glan Clwyd Hospital has proven a string of allegations.

In the independent report, one family said it was like going into a zoo and seeing "captured animals".

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has apologised for the "inexcusable and unacceptable" treatment.

Following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, North Wales Police have decided not to bring any charges in the case.

The independent investigation found

  • Patients nursed on the floor
  • A lack of professional, dignified and compassionate care
  • Unsupervised patients
  • An environment which does not promote independence, resulting in restraint
  • Regimes/routine/practice on the ward which may violate individual patients' human rights

The report's author, health specialist Donna Ockenden, found the concerns raised proven and said they amount to "institutional abuse".

She said there was a lack of action by the senior leadership team on previous reports highlighting specific concerns with the service provided by the health board's Clinical Programme Group (CPG) responsible for mental health services.

There was also a lack of systematic review and little evidence of timely actions put in place by the team.

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Media captionBetsi Cadwaladr University Health Board chief executive, Prof Trevor Purt, speaks to BBC Wales

Ms Ockenden said it was also likely there was "significant under-reporting of serious incidents within the clinical areas led by the CPG".

The health board confirmed eight members of nursing staff have been suspended on full pay.

A "significant" number have also been transferred to other roles while others, including managers, have been "stood down".

The independent report was commissioned by the health board, who decided not to publish it until police completed their investigation.

In the report, families described seeing patients "constantly crawling on dirty floors" and being "like a zombie...drugged up".

Image copyright Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
Image caption A photo of a soiled bed was taken by a family of one of the patients

A family told the report's author they found a relative in bed "in a pool of stale urine and it's so stale it was brown".

When they raised this issue, they were told: "Psychiatric nurses aren't very good at looking after physically ill people."

Chief executive, Prof Trevor Purt, called the ward "the worst case" he has seen in his role.

He said: "On behalf of the health board, I am extremely sorry that we let our vulnerable patients and their families down so badly.

"The treatment of some patients on the ward described in the report was shocking, inexcusable and unacceptable and we acknowledge the immense distress that the families are feeling."

Image caption A press conference was held by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board panel on Thursday

Angela Hopkins, director of nursing and midwifery, said: "It's a shameful day that we are here again reporting something that is about the most vulnerable in our society."

The Welsh Conservatives said patients were "treated like animals" and have called for managers and senior leaders to be immediately dismissed.

Shadow health minister Darren Millar AM said: "Anyone who's responsible for such poor levels of care shouldn't ever be allowed to look after patients again, and the senior leaders, the managers in this organisation that allowed this to happen... should face the sack."

The Welsh government, which welcomed the health board's apology, said it has since carried out unannounced mental health spot checks across Wales.

Now that police involvement has ended, the health board will resume its own internal disciplinary action.

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