A hundred patients with learning disabilities have been ‘detained’ in special hospitals for 20 years, investigation shows
- Tony Hickmott, 44, living in secure Assessment and Treatment Unit for 20 years
- He was sectioned under Mental Health Act and moved away from home in 2001
- Government vowed in 2015 to end scandal of adults being held for years as in-patients
A hundred adults with learning disabilities have been ‘detained’ in specialist hospitals for over two decades, it was revealed last night.
People with conditions such as autism and Down’s syndrome are trapped in NHS institutions due to failures in finding suitable community care.
Tony Hickmott, 44, who is autistic, has been living in a secure Assessment and Treatment Unit (ATU) for 20 years.
The units are designed to be short-term secure placements for people with learning disabilities to receive treatment before moving back into the community.
Mr Hickmott was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2001 and moved away from his parents’ home in Brighton, East Sussex.
His family were initially told he would be away for nine months, but he was only declared ‘fit for discharge’ by psychiatrists in 2013.
Mr Hickmott is still waiting for local authorities to find him a suitable home and his elderly parents are now fighting for him in court.
Details of his ordeal become public yesterday after BBC News went to court to overturn an order preventing reporting of the case.
People with conditions such as autism and Down’s syndrome are trapped in NHS institutions due to failures in finding suitable community care (file photo)
The BBC investigation found that 350 people have been detained in specialist hospitals for more than a decade.
And 100, including Mr Hickmott, have spent more than 20 years in ATUs.
His case is being heard at the Court of Protection, which makes decisions on welfare matters for people who lack mental capacity.
Senior Judge Carolyn Hilder, who is hearing the case, criticised ‘egregious’ progress in finding him the right care.
His mother Pam, 81, said her son no longer ‘believes he’s coming home’.
She added: ‘If he’d murdered someone he’d be out now. He’s lost his family, he’s lost his home.
‘He’s just a shadow of the human he used to be. There are so many families like us – crying and screaming. We are our children’s voices.’
She said delays in releasing him were due to a dispute over funding between the local authority and the NHS.
Her son’s ATU is paid for by the NHS, but the cost of housing him in the community would fall to Brighton and Hove City Council.
Mrs Hickmott said: ‘We’ve got judges telling them to get on with it but they’re still not doing it. They’re still fighting over the money.’
She and husband Roy used to visit Tony twice a week but now only make the trip on a Thursday.
In 2015, the Government launched a programme aimed at ending the scandal of adults with learning disabilities and autism being kept for years in in-patient units (file photo)
Mr Hickmott, 78, said: ‘I’ve gone through three cars travelling to and fro. Sometimes Pam and I travel back and pull in at the side of the road and we just cry.’
In 2015, the Government launched a programme aimed at ending the scandal of adults with learning disabilities and autism being kept for years in in-patient units.
This followed horrific revelations in 2011 about the neglect of patients with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View hospital in Gloucestershire.
But official figures show that 2,070 people are currently kept in the units in England, down 13 per cent from the figure in March 2015.
The council said: ‘Tony has extremely complex needs. We’ve tried on a number of occasions to find a sustainable solution nearer to Brighton…these were not successful.’
The NHS said it was working to ensure ‘appropriate care and support is in place’ for him.