Huge rise in sexual abuse of hospital patients as police figures show 1,600 attacks in three years

Published January 1, 2015 by JS2
  • Total of 1,615 sex abuse reports received by UK police forces since 2011
  • Data, released under Freedom of Information, includes 157 reports of rape
  • Met Police accounted for 20 per cent of all reports with 141 alleged attacks 
  • Shadow minister for public health said immediate review was necessary 

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Police figures reveal a huge rise in the number of sexual abuse reports received from hospital patients, with 1,600 attacks recorded in the last three years.

Data from 38 out of 45 police forces across the UK reveals a 50 per cent increase in reports of sexual violence in NHS hospitals, private clinics and health centres since 2011.

The figures, released following a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian, show there were a total of 1,615 alleged attacks, which included 157 reports of rape. A small number reportedly relate to historic assaults which occurred before 2011.

Data from Metropolitan Police showed the force received 17 reports of rapes and 124 reports of other sexual offences, accounting for 20 per cent of all reports, with mental health patients being particularly vulnerable.

One victim, a mental health patient, described psychiatric hospitals as a ‘playground for predators’, and said she was raped up to 60 times by a member of staff.

The woman, who was groomed with gifts from the senior staff member, said she only built up the courage to speak out about the abuse after she was released from Little Brook Hospital in Dartford, Kent.

Remaining anonymous, she told the BBC earlier this year how she was admitted to the hospital after a breakdown.

She said: ‘At times I was on a very heavy amount of Valium, not to where I was unconscious, but the sedative combined with my already defeated self, I was like putty. He would pull the covers back, do what he had to do and leave, all very quickly. I didn’t move.’

She said she couldn’t ‘believe how it could have been so frequent and not picked up on.’ She eventually received £100,000 compensation and her attacker received a suspended jail sentence.

At the time, Kent and Medway NHS Trust said it was unable to comment because the offences occurred under the previous regime.

Doctor Myles Bradbury, 41, (pictured) was jailed for 22 years earlier this month after sexually abusing desperately ill boys in his care at a specialist unit

Another victim told how she was groomed by her mental health support officer for five months, but he resigned before a police investigation concluded and authorities were unable to take action against him.

Earlier this year, Doctor Myles Bradbury, 41, admitted sexually abusing 18 desperately ill boys under his care at a specialist unit.

The court heard how the disgraced doctor targeted the boys – all of whom were ‘really poorly’ and vulnerable – in his private consulting room.

He would tell their parents they should leave the room in case their children got embarrassed, before sexually touching them for his own gratification and telling them it was a ‘legitimate examination’.

Bradbury, from Herringswell, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, was suspended from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge last November after a victim’s parents raised concerns with staff.

He was jailed for 22 years at Cambridge Crown Court earlier this month, after pleading guilty to 25 offences against boys aged 10 to 16, including sexual assault, voyeurism and possessing more than 16,000 indecent images.

Luciana Berger, shadow minister for public health, said the new figures were worrying and demanded that ministers order an immediate review of security.

She told the Guardian‘s Martin Williams: ‘A zero-tolerance approach to sexual abuse must be pursued in the NHS.

‘All victims should feel safe to come forward and every incident properly dealt with by the police, courts and health service, to ensure every perpetrator is brought to justice.’

Mind, a mental health charity, said it was ‘completely unacceptable that sexual abuse was so prevalent within mental health units’.

In a statement, Nat Miles, senior policy and campaigns officer, said: ‘Many people told us they are often seen as vulnerable and therefore an easy target by perpetrators, and are more easily discredited and less likely to be taken seriously if they report a crime.

‘Too often, crimes on wards are dealt with internally and not reported to police. It’s vital that frontline staff are adequately trained, so crimes are taken seriously, and dealt with quickly and appropriately.’

An NHS England spokesman said: ‘It is of course essential that both NHS and independent hospitals do everything to ensure that patients are safe and feel safe in their premises, and where concerns arise the police must be able to bring to bear the full force of the law.’

Emma Glanfield

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