Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Treatment of 16-year-old autistic girl “appalling”, says Labour MP

A Labour MP has described the treatment of a 16-year-old autistic girl as “appalling”, after she was kept in a busy general hospital for nearly seven months.

Molly was kept in a side-room of the children’s ward for nearly 200 days due to a lack of appropriate support from mental health services, something the National Autistic Society says is happening to hundreds of other young autistic people.

Hospital environments not suitable for many autistic people

Molly was admitted to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth – which is not a mental health unit – after her weight dropped to a dangerously low level.

However, Molly is autistic, and she told the BBC that the loud, bright, busy hospital environment was like “living in hell”.

She found that living on a busy hospital ward overloaded her senses, and as a result, her behaviour sometimes became challenging.

Molly was restrained numerous times as a result and was kept under close observation by three nurses, and there were often security guards stationed outside her room, according to her family.

Despite this close supervision, Molly seriously harmed herself on several occasions. Towards the end of Molly’s hospital stay, the children’s ward closed to other patients because she became so distressed.

Molly revealed her story to Alison Holt, a BBC journalist, as she does not want others to be treated the way she has been treated. “The system really needs to change,” she told the BBC.

Government’s action plan to improve community care set to fail

Shadow Minister for the Arts and Civil Society, Barbara Keeley, said: “Molly’s experience of being trapped in an inappropriate environment with no support for her autism and the constant threat of restraint is appalling. Yet it is an experience shared by 2,000 other people and the Government is not acting to change this.

“Being trapped in a noisy general hospital ward for seven months – isolated from peers and frequently restrained – would be overwhelming for anyone, let alone an autistic 16-year-old. It is dreadful that safe care was not found for Molly outside of hospital.”

Ms Keeley says the government’s response to Molly’s situation is unacceptable, and says if investment in community provision continues to fall like it did between 2021/22 and 2022/22, the government’s “action plan” to improve mental health services will fail.

“This is a failure of leadership and accountability by the Conservative Government. And it should not be up to excellent journalists like Alison Holt to have to keep raising these issues. Families need to see real change,” she said.

More funding urgently needed

The National Autistic Society is now calling on the government to provide the funding that autistic people desperately need.

A spokesperson said: “Many autistic people, like Molly, are stuck in hospital due to a lack of community mental health support. We cannot allow autistic people to continue to be failed in one of the great human rights crises of our generation.

“Government and the NHS must provide urgent funding for mental health services in the community, so that no autistic people are left struggling without the support they need.”

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More