Mental health patients ‘sexually assaulted while in care’, investigation finds

Mental health patients have allegedly been sexually assaulted while under NHS care, according to an investigation.

A probe by Sky News and The Independent found there had been almost 20,000 complaints of sexual assault, abuse and harassment across mental health trusts in England since 2019.

The report was sparked by allegations from Alexis Quinn (pictured), who entered care in 2012 following the death of her brother.

She claims she complained of sexual assault by a male patient on Christmas day in 2013.

She told the Sky News Patient 11 podcast: “He pressed me up against the door and lifted my top up. And he started to touch me on my breasts and then pulled my trousers down.”

She claims she was assaulted again in 2014 while on a mixed-gender ward.

In both instances, her alleged attackers faced no criminal action.

Other patients shared their stories as part of the investigation, including Stephanie Tutty, who was admitted to a ward in 2015 and alleges she was sexually abused by a male staff member for five months.

Rivkah Grant, who has autism, also said she was sexually assaulted by a male healthcare worker. He was convicted in June 2017 following a police investigation.

Ms Quinn told Sky News: “I thought it was just me. But it’s not just me – there are thousands of people (like me).”

Sky News and The Independent lodged 50 freedom of information (FoI) requests to NHS England mental health trusts, with 38 responses.

Figures showed there had been almost 20,000 “sexual safety incidents” reported on inpatient mental health wards between 2019 and 2023.

These include instances of any unwanted sexual behaviour that makes a person feel uncomfortable or unsafe, such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, comments of a sexual nature, exposure, or rape.

The FoI requests also showed there were almost 4,000 incidents between January and August 2023, higher than the annual totals of 2019 and 2020.

A separate request made by The Independent found more than 800 allegations of sexual assault and rape involving female patients across more than 20 trusts between 2019 and 2023.

However, only 95 were reported to police.

A Department of Health spokesperson told Sky News and The Independent: “Sexual violence or misconduct of any kind is unacceptable and has no place in the NHS, and NHS organisations have a responsibility to protect both staff and patients.

“We are working closely with the NHS to ensure anyone receiving treatment in a mental health facility receives safe, high-quality care and is looked after with dignity and respect.”

A statement from NHS England added: “We are taking action to ensure the safety of patients and staff, including rolling out better reporting mechanisms, training and support as part of the NHS’s new Sexual Safety Charter.

“NHS England has advised all Trusts and local health systems to appoint a domestic abuse and sexual violence lead to support patients and staff to report incidents and access support, with more than 300 now in place.”

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