Yesterday the inquest was held into the death of Stephanie Bincliffe. Stephanie was a 25 year old autistic woman who for seven years had been detained under the Mental health Act in an assessment and treatment unit run by the Huntercombe Group. For years, Stephanie had been held in a padded room with no fresh air or access to any form of exercise. Her weight had increased by 10 stone to 26 stone during her time in the Unit and she died of heart failure & sleep apnoea, both, the coroner decided as a result of her obesity.
The coroner was quite critical of the Unit for its lack of a treatment plan (!!) but at the same time ruled out neglect on the part of the care providers but also said that because of Stephanie’s challenging behaviour, any treatment plan to tackle the obesity would have been very difficult to implement.
Stephanie wasn’t neglected?
Read the press release and the heart-breaking statements from Stephanie’s family and then think again about your definition of “neglect” – http://www.challengingbehaviour.org.uk/cbf-articles/latest-news/death-of-a-young-woman-with-a.html
As usual, in these sort of inquiries there is no mention of the commissioners who sent Stephanie to her doom. They shelled out £12k a week for the “assessment & treatment” and have now got off scott free as nobody seems to be asking questions about their commissioning decisions.
At the same time, nobody seems to be asking questions about how Stephanie’s weight managed to increase so dangerously. The Unit management talked about having to balance any weight control programme versus Stephanie’s tendency to self harm around unmet food demands. What they fail to mention, and I realise I’m guessing here, is the impact a major drug programme has on someone’s weight. Once again, I’m guessing, but I bet that in order to deal with Stephanie’s “challenging behaviour”, she would have been on some serious medication. But that doesn’t warrant a mention.
And as so happens all the time, nobody is asking the question – “what the bloody hell was Stephanie doing there in the first place?” Even if someone truly believed that she needed medical intervention at some stage, seven years later, why wasn’t somebody reviewing whether the intervention she was getting was working. The trouble when someone enters an ATU is that these questions aren’t asked. The person is lost. They are forgotten. They become a cost figure in the commissioning body’s monthly outgoings.
Yesterday, I had my first overnight stay in my new flat. Shortly after arriving, I took a phone call from the producer of a radio programme. The inquest verdict hadn’t been announced at this point but he was planning to devote a large chunk of his 6 o’clock programme to Stephanie’s case. He admitted that the production team were working on the assumption that the verdict would be pretty damming and he had lined up Mencap to contribute to a discussion of the case. he wanted me in on the discussion because of Steven’s experience of an ATU. I was uneasy because Steven’s experience was nothing like Stephanie’s but I thought it might be useful to get a parent’s perspective to the wider question of Assessment & Treatment units. I agreed to be interviewed live during the programme.
At 5.55, he called me back and told me that, following the verdict, they had decided not to run the story. The verdict wasn’t particularly critical of the Unit or the “treatment”, so there wasn’t really a story. I was fucking furious – “That is your bloody story then” I despaired.
But no. Despite the thousands of questions to be asked about this case, the fact that Stephanie’s death was seen as inevitable, there became no story to tell.
And that is why Stephanie was taken to an ATU seven years ago. That is why she was allowed to be kept in a locked padded room for seven years. That is why she died.
Because there was no story. Nobody was interested. Nobody making the decisions cared.