That is helpful, Mr Austin.
We have already touched on independent hospitals, but there is so much more to say. Amendment 19 deals with the extremely important and troubling issue that remains in the Bill regarding the role of independent hospitals. The Opposition know, and the Minister knows all too well, the pernicious behaviour of independent hospitals when it comes to the treatment of vulnerable people with learning disabilities and autistic people detained under mental health legislation.
A number of scandalous cases have come to light in recent months relating to the treatment of autistic people and people with learning disabilities in assessment and treatment units. The BBC’s “File on 4” programme exposed the horrific case of Bethany, who was held in an independent hospital and subjected to appalling treatment and constant seclusion. I have discussed Bethany’s case at the Dispatch Box on several occasions, along with those of other vulnerable people who were virtually imprisoned in these units at enormous cost. I make no apology for touching on these cases again. Bethany’s case has been tortuous. She has been taken in and out of seclusion and treated with astonishing cruelty by the independent hospital holding her.
Bethany is a 17-year-old young woman with autism and extreme anxiety, and is being kept in seclusion at St Andrew’s Hospital, Northamptonshire. She is held in a cell-like room and fed through a hatch in a metal door, and even her father must kneel at it to speak to her when he visits. She has been detained and held in seclusion despite an assessment that the current hospital setting is not able to meet her needs and a recommendation that she be moved to a community residential setting with high support.
Bethany’s case is one of an alarming set of cases of people being held in assessment and treatment units—ATUs—for extremely long periods. Some 60% of such people are held for more than two years, and 20% are held for more than 10 years. Around half of the 2,350 people with a learning disability and autism in ATUs are held in independent hospitals. The Government pledged to reduce the instances of people with autism and learning disabilities being held at these units by between a third and a half, but the reality is that the number of adults with autism and learning disabilities locked up in ATUs has fallen by a pitifully small number over the past three years. Shockingly, the number of children held has more than doubled.