Staff at 'chaotic and unsafe' mental health hospital criticised trends now
Staff allowed young patients at a failing mental health hospital to self-harm and access suicide websites amid 'chaotic' conditions on the wards, a damning independent investigation has revealed.
The report was ordered after three teenagers Christie Harnett, 17, Nadia Sharif, 17, and Emily Moore, 18, took their own lives during an eight-month period before the Covid pandemic following treatment at West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough.
Too few and inadequately trained staff, as well as a lack of leadership, meant the child and adolescent mental health wards often seemed 'chaotic and unsafe' to staff and patients.
A policy of 'least restrictive practice' meant young patients with complex problems were largely left to their own devices, skipping education lessons to lounge around and surf harmful websites on the internet.
The report revealed the young patients were 'allowed to decide whether they attended lessons and were not always stopped from bringing inappropriate high-risk and potentially lethal items onto the wards.'
Nadia Sharif, 17 (pictured) had been under the trust's care for five years before she took her own life and was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. The teenager had ambitions to become an accountant and enjoyed keeping fit, her family said
Emily Moore, 18 (pictured) was also treated at West Lane Hospital but was transferred on turning 18 to Lanchester Road Hospital in Durham where she died in February 2020. There were 200 self-harming incidents in her final 12 months and little consideration was given to her father's concerns about them, the report found. There was a 'complete breakdown of trust' between her parents and the trust
Christie Harnett, 17 (pictured) was initially referred to the NHS trust's eating disorder team two years earlier. She suffered weight loss for not eating properly and was later detained under the Mental Health Act after self-harming and aggressive behaviour. She was described by her family as academically bright with a talent for art and a love of musicals and shopping
Rules and boundaries were lacking and the report commented 'every parent who spoke to us was unhappy with treatment of their young person at West Lane.'
'Young people would be in their pyjamas all day watching daytime TV and staying up at night on the internet or watching films.
'This meant that young people had unmanaged access to their smartphones, and so they could access inappropriate websites, such as those for self-harming, share pictures of other patients who had self-harmed and spend hours on the internet at night.'
West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough, where all three were treated for mental health problems, was found to have 'unstable and overstretched services' that were among the 'root causes' of Christie and Nadia's deaths. Failures at West Lane Hospital in Emily's case were not contributory factors to her death
In May, another father whose daughter had been sectioned and kept in the hospital spoke of his anger that medics wanted to release her despite him believing she was at risk of suicide. Pictured is his protest sign
One parent compared the chaos to William Golding's novel in which a group of boys alone on a deserted island become increasingly savage without the civilising influence of adults.
'It was like Lord of the Flies: they would all be in a cohort either just watching telly or running round,' said the parent.
Phones were seen as a way patients could communicate with families and a rule making them available to everyone was introduced to comply with the European Convention on Human