Hancock apology to autistic girl locked up for 2 years

Published by The Mail on Sunday (10th November, 2019)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has apologised for persistent care failures to Beth, the teenage girl with autism whose detention in a locked hospital cell has sparked national outrage.

Asked by Sky News presenter Sophy Ridge if he would say sorry to Bethany’s father Jeremy, Mr Hancock yesterday replied: ‘Of course I apologise to Jeremy, and frankly to Bethany, for the things that have gone wrong in her care.’

Jeremy said it was ‘great’ to have the apology – but he wanted to see action to end the ‘torture’ of people such as his daughter rather than just hear ‘hot air from health chiefs’.

Beth’s case has featured prominently in The Mail on Sunday’s campaign to end the abusive detention of people with autism and learning disabilities. 

At least 2,250 are incarcerated in secure hospital units, largely due to deficiencies in local care, where they are subjected to violent restraint, forced sedation and solitary confinement.

As revealed in last week’s paper, Mr Hancock has demanded an urgent review and discharge plans for all the cases within a year and appointed an independent panel to help free patients such as Beth stuck in seclusion.

Last month, Jeremy won a landmark legal battle that forced an apology from the NHS, her local authority and the mental health charity that held his daughter for almost two years in appalling conditions, even feeding her through a hatch.

Mr Hancock said yesterday that he had met her father and demanded a serious case review. ‘There are ten recommendations which we are considering very carefully…Bethany does need to be moved and we’re lining up where we can move her to. The current plan is for her to be moved to a more appropriate setting before Christmas.’ 

The Health Department review concluded ‘young people with autism are being admitted to inappropriate placements due to a lack of appropriate community provision’.

Beth was sectioned at the age of 15 under the Mental Health Act. Yet her father says her current plight is even worse at an adult unit in Wales, where she must wait behind a line as food is slid across the floor to her ‘like an animal’.

‘My fight is not just about Beth but the hundreds of other young people and adults being treated in the same awful way,’ said Jeremy.

He added that he was ‘unaware’ of plans to move Beth by Christmas and was dismayed Mr Hancock had disclosed this on TV before discussion with Beth or her family.

‘This will send her anxieties through the roof when she hears about it,’ he said. 

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