Harriet Harman challenges the section of autistic patients

Published by The Mail on Sunday (18th November, 2018)

Harriet Harman is leading a chorus of alarm from MPs over the scandal of youngsters with autism who are locked up like criminals in NHS-funded psychiatric units.

As chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Labour grandee has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock expressing her concern over cases of teenagers and adults who suffer shocking treatment because they have autism or learning difficulties.

It follows Mail on Sunday revelations that hundreds of teenagers and adults are being incarcerated in appalling conditions, forcibly injected with cocktails of drugs to sedate them, stuffed into tiny padded cells and fed through hatches.

Ms Harman told Mr Hancock of her concern at revelations ‘that suggest widespread use of restraint and isolation and of some particularly disturbing cases of apparent poor treatment’.

Mr Hancock admitted he was ‘deeply shocked’ by this newspaper’s investigation and ordered an urgent investigation by the Care Quality Commission into the use of assessment and treatment units to hold people.

These are supposedly short-stay – but people with autism and learning disabilities are sectioned under mental health laws and held for up to 18 years in secure units.

Last week, the MoS exposed ‘fat cat’ private operators were charging taxpayers up to £730,000 a year for each patient held in the controversial and secretive psychiatric units.

Ms Harman has demanded full details of the scope, powers and timetable of the CQC inquiry.

Isabelle Garnett, an autism campaigner whose teenage son suffered badly when taken into a unit for almost two years, said: ‘When my son was sectioned he thought he was in prison – but we soon realised it was far worse since he had fewer human rights than a convicted criminal.

‘Those in power need to act on existing reports and recommendations, providing upfront community provisions to prevent inappropriate and inhumane admissions to costly independent hospitals.’

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