NHS apology is ‘just the start’

Chrys Muirhead, who has received an apology from NHS Fife about the treatment of her son in Stratheden Hospital
Chrys Muirhead, who has received an apology from NHS Fife about the treatment of her son in Stratheden Hospital

A patient subjected to ‘inhumane’ treatment in Stratheden Hospital has received an apology from NHS Fife in the wake of a damning report by a health watchdog.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has issued an 11-page dossier criticising the treatment meted out to 29-year-old Daniel Muirhead, who was admitted to Stratheden in 2012 suffering from depression.

The SPSO found that staff at the hospital dragged Daniel between wards in just his underwear and failed to monitor his wellbeing appropriately after he was dumped in a seclusion room.

According to the findings, he was restrained after allegedly setting fire to bedding and he was held under a short-term detention certificate.

In the aftermath, he broke his hand on a wall and was sedated before being transferred, via minibus, to the Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit (IPCU) while barefoot and wearing boxer shorts. Waking up, he found himself in the unit’s seclusion room, where he spent ‘a number of hours’ without food, running water or a toilet.

Staff failed to respond to his repeated calls to use a bathroom and he then staged a dirty protest.

The Ombudsman ruled that Daniel’s treatment had been ‘unacceptable’ and it had been ‘inappropriate’ to transfer him to the IPCU in his underwear and without shoes.

The full report will be made public within the next few weeks but, in the meantime, Daniel’s mother Chrys, who raised the concerns, says the apology is ‘just the start’.

She told the Fife Herald that, although she was pleased her complaints had been upheld, there were further human rights issues that may be subject to criminal investigation.

“NHS Fife has apologised for the incident involving the bare feet and underpants but is that apology enough? No,” said Ms Muirhead, a well-known mental health campaigner.

“I would like to see evidence that practices have changed.

“I would like to hear they don’t use that seclusion room any more.

“This is just the start. I am not finished by a long chalk.

“I wouldn’t put a cat or a dog in Stratheden.”

The Ombudsman’s report concluded: “It was inappropriate to transfer your son to the IPCU in his underwear and without shoes.

“In addition, I do not consider the observation or supervision of your son in the seclusion room was adequate or that there is evidence of a plan to ensure your son had appropriate access to food, fluids and a toilet during his period of seclusion.”

The findings prompted fury among campaigners, including Dr Jean Turner of the Scotland Patients’ Association, who described Daniel’s treatment as ‘inhumane’ and ‘cruel.’

Daniel, a graduate of Abertay University, is now keeping in better health and is living with Chrys near Cupar.

This is not the first time Stratheden has been criticised by the authorities.

In 2008, NHS Fife carried out extensive improvements following a damning report by the Mental Welfare Commission.

The following year, a new £4 million unit for patients with dementia was opened.