Strong criticism of the way in which patients have been treated at a Scottish mental health unit was found during an investigation for a BBC documentary. Accusations of forceful restraints for too long or for minor incidents, an availability of illegal drugs, and aggression of staff towards patients have been made.

Carseview Centre, part of Ninewells Hospital Dundee, is the subject of BBC Scotland’s Breaking Point documentary which was broadcast last night on July 9. Carseview is the largest mental health care facility in the Tayside region of Scotland.

The allegations come from 24 previous inpatients who had treatment in the centre in the previous five years.

One patient included in the documentary was quoted by the BBC in a comment about the use of restraints, saying that they “definitely did feel like punishments.” Another said that they felt a staff member was “taking his frustration out on [her]” when she was restrained on the floor in a face-down position for 45 minutes to an hour. This is much longer than the maximum time of 10 minutes stated in the guidelines for use of physical restraint from the National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE).

Moreover, 16 out of the 24 patients talked to, said that illegal drugs could be obtained when they had been in Carseview.

Only recently, there was the publication of findings of an inquiry into the death by suicide in 2015 of a man who had been a patient at Carseview. The Times noted the inquiry into Dale Thomson’s death. It recorded “failures in procedure” which were detrimental to the patient and there is currently an ongoing investigation by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland into Tayside mental health services.

This was called for by the Scottish Government in May this year.

'Seni’s law'

The documentary aired in the wake of 'Seni’s law', formally called Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, passing in its third reading in parliament last Friday (6 July.) Calls for mental health reform came after the death of Olaseni Lewis, known as ‘Seni’, who died aged 23 in 2010 after being restrained by 11 police officers who were called to the mental health unit in Croydon where Lewis had voluntarily gone for treatment earlier that evening.

Presented by MP Steve Reed, the Lewis family’s local MP, the bill calls for greater culpability for those who use restraints in mental health units, improving training of those who use restraints in mental health units, and calls for all police officers who respond to incidents in these units to wear body cameras to record events.

It has received the support of many mental health charities including Rethink Mental Health and Mind UK. Those who campaigned for its passing hoped it would lower the use of restraints in mental health units and improve the welfare of those receiving mental health treatment.

The BBC’s documentary shines further light on issues regarding the use of restraints. While there was mention of some helpful and professional staff members, the majority of the documentary highlighted the excessive use of restraints and the unfair treatment of patients.

NHS Tayside’s Response to the documentary

It was reported by the BBC that the NHS Trust declined an interview but stated that they “will act.”

In a post on NHS Tayside’s Facebook page, the Chairman of NHS Tayside, John Brown, said the Trust would like to fully examine the allegations made and as such “we would ask that the patient testimonies featured in the BBC programme are provided to us for that purpose.” Furthermore, he called for other patients to “share their own stories with us” assuring that “we will listen and we will act.”

Mental health care in Scotland was also recently under scrutiny with an audit of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) finding that one in five referrals was rejected.

The Breaking Point documentary about the Carseview Centre is available to watch online on BBC iPlayer.

If anyone is adversely affected by themes raised in this article and would like to talk to someone, they can call Samaritans on 116 123, email, or find out where the closest Samaritans branch is by going to their website.