PURE EVIL: The ‘loneliest man in the hospital’: autistic man, 44, only had his basic needs met ‘like an animal’ while locked in a secure unit for two decades despite never committing a crime and being declared ‘fit for discharge’ in 2013

The ‘loneliest man in the hospital’: Whistleblower reveals autistic man, 44, only had his basic needs met ‘like an animal’ while locked in a secure unit for two decades despite never committing a crime and being declared ‘fit for discharge’ in 2013

  • Autistic man detained in hospital for 20 years was treated ‘like an animal’

  • Tony Hickmott was sectioned in 2001 and moved away from home in Brighton  

  • Whistleblower now claims Mr Hickmott was the ‘loneliest man in the hospital’

  • Government vowed to end scandal of adults being held for years as in-patients

An autistic man who has been detained in hospital for 20 years was treated ‘like an animal’, a whistleblower has alleged.

Tony Hickmott, 44, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2001 and taken from his parents’ home in Brighton, East Sussex.

Though his family were initially told he would be away for nine months, he has lived in a secure Assessment and Treatment Unit for two decades – and was only declared ‘fit for discharge’ by psychiatrists in 2013. 

Mr Hickmott is still waiting for local authorities to find him a suitable home, and his elderly parents are now fighting to get him rehoused in the community. The hospital has not been named for his care and wellbeing. [typical secrecy!! how many more victims like this are there, feeding the hospital coffers with bogus patients who shouldn’t be in “places” like this?…ed.]

He is one of 100 people who have spent more than 20 years in ATUs. A BBC investigation found that 350 people have been detained in specialist hospitals for more than a decade, and more than 2,000 patients are being held in hospitals and other secure settings across England.  

Details of Mr Hickmott’s ordeal became public last month, after an order preventing reporting of the case was overturned in court

A support worker where the 44-year-old has been detained has now claimed that Mr Hickmott was the ‘loneliest man in the hospital’ and that – like ‘an animal’ – only his basic needs were met. 

Phil Devine described how he felt complicit in the autistic man’s ‘neglect and abuse’ while he worked at the private, low-secure hospital between 2015 and 2017.

Tony Hickmott, 44, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2001 and moved away from his parents’ home in Brighton, East Sussex
  •  
Phil Devine (pictured) described how he felt complicit in the autistic man's 'neglect and abuse' while he worked at the private, low-secure hospital between 2015 and 2017
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The BBC investigation found that 350 people have been detained in specialist hospitals for more than a decade. And 100, including Mr Hickmott, have spent more than 20 years in ATUs

The BBC investigation found that 350 people have been detained in specialist hospitals for more than a decade. And 100, including Mr Hickmott, have spent more than 20 years in ATUs

Mr Hickmott is still waiting for local authorities to find him a suitable home, and his elderly parents are now fighting to get him rehoused in the community
Mr Hickmott is still waiting for local authorities to find him a suitable home, and his elderly parents are now fighting to get him rehoused in the community

Mr Hickmott is still waiting for local authorities to find him a suitable home, and his elderly parents (pictured) are now fighting to get him rehoused in the community

Assessment and Treatment Units are designed to be short-term secure placements for people with learning disabilities to receive treatment before moving back into the community.

However, all too often, patients are being sectioned under mental health laws and sent to ATUs where they languish for years.  

People with autism placed in ATUs are particularly vulnerable: they can respond badly, even aggressively, to anxiety, stress or unexpected events.

Many sectioning orders are for a maximum of 12 weeks, but patients can then be shifted into a different category of indefinite length – although there are meant to be discharge plans made from the start.

The average stay for these patients at ATUs is five and a half years.

Without proper help from trained staff, stress levels for people with autism and learning disabilities can spiral as they react by fighting, fleeing or freezing. They can then get stuck in seclusion, sedated with drugs as their issues intensify.

Mr Devine alleged that Mr Hickmott had very little freedom, unlike many other patients in the hospital, and spent all his time in segregation. He believes this may have been because of the risk from other patients in the hospital.

‘He had never committed a crime, but here he was, living in solitary confinement,’ he told BBC News.

‘He was fed, watered and cleaned. If anything happened beyond that, wonderful, but if it didn’t, then it was still OK. 

‘The management at the hospital said to us: ”Here’s a care plan. At so and so time get breakfast, at so and so time get him dressed”. 

That’s just a schedule – that’s not a care plan. It was strict, it was rigid. But that was all Tony had.’ 

ATUs are designed to be short-term secure placements for people with learning disabilities to receive treatment before moving back into the community.

However, all too often, patients are being sectioned under mental health laws and sent to ATUs where they languish for years.  

Mr Hickmott’s case is being heard at the Court of Protection, which makes decisions on welfare matters for people who lack mental capacity. 

Senior Judge Carolyn Hilder, who is hearing the case, criticised ‘egregious’ progress in finding him the right care. 

His mother Pam, 81, said her son no longer ‘believes he’s coming home’.

She added: ‘If he’d murdered someone he’d be out now. He’s lost his family, he’s lost his home. He’s just a shadow of the human he used to be. There are so many families like us – crying and screaming. We are our children’s voices.’ 

Last year, the hospital was put into special measures because it did not always ‘meet the needs of complex patients’.  

Some of the patients there had committed crimes, while others such as Mr Hickmott were detained under the Mental Health Act

Some of the patients there had committed crimes, while others such as Mr Hickmott were detained under the Mental Health Act

Some of the patients there had committed crimes, while others such as Mr Hickmott were detained under the Mental Health Act

His mother Pam said her son no longer 'believes he's coming home'
  •  

A report highlighted high levels of restraint and overuse of medication, a lack of qualified and competent staff and an increase of violence on many wards. The Care Quality Commission said that the hospital has now been taken out of special measures but still ‘requires improvement’. 

In 2015, the Government launched a programme aimed at ending the scandal of adults with learning disabilities and autism being kept for years in in-patient units. 

This followed horrific revelations in 2011 about the neglect of patients with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View hospital in Gloucestershire.

The Huntercombe Group, which ran the hospital, was sold last year by its parent company, Four Seasons, which is currently in administration. While the name still exists, the previous company is no longer in existence.

In a statement, the group said: ‘The Huntercombe Group that ran this hospital up to the end of 2020 are a different legal entity to the current Huntercombe Group, who were not established at the time and therefore not involved in providing services.

‘All patient records from the hospital are held by the previous owners of the former group, and as such the current Huntercombe Group hold no records of patients.’

An NHS spokesman said it was working to ensure ‘appropriate care and support is in place’ for Mr Hickmott.

source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10332367/Whistleblower-reveals-autistic-man-44-basic-needs-met-like-animal.html

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