Americans have been shocked by the recent reports out of Boston Children's Hospital, where 15-year-old Justina Pelletier has been held for almost a year after her parents lost custody. On the other side of the Atlantic under Britain's National Health Service (NHS) -- sometimes described as a "future vision of Obamacare" -- one whistleblower alleges that locking up vulnerable patients has become routine.
John Marchant, the former head of security at Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, told the U.K. Telegraph that staff routinely confines patients to their rooms -- and sometimes to their beds -- when they are a "nuisance."
"In many cases we are talking about patients known as ‘bed blockers’, elderly people unable to return home or with no residential care unit to go to," Marchant said. "In these cases detention is being used simply because the patient become so frustrated at not even being able to go out for a walk in the hospital grounds because there are no staff to accompany them."
"Some would go back to their rooms if you asked them, but others would have to be closed in and it would be very distressing for them," he added.
Marchant was the head of security for more than ten years until late 2012, according to the Telegraph. He said in that time, sometimes the requests were so alarming that the guards refused to comply and warned that the action may be illegal.
He alleges that sometimes patients were pushed into their rooms and the doors were locked or held closed. His report also claims that in a single two-week period, medical staff asked security guards to intervene on 80 different occasions.
According to the Telegraph, the Commons health select committee warned in August that vulnerable patients were at risk of abuse because of "profoundly depressing and complacent" attitudes by the staff.
The Dudley Group says it "absolutely" refutes the claims.
"The health and well being of our patients is our absolute priority and we always act in the best interests of our patients," reads a statement on The Dudley Group's website. "It is our priority not to restrain patients."
Hospital horror stories are far from rare in the United Kingdom. Between 2005 and 2009, up to 1,200 people were found to have died unnecessarily in Mid Staffordshire. Many others were found to be starving or dehydrated and left in complete squalor. This was the case where patients were found to be drinking out of flowerpots, they were so desperate.
In July, British doctors slammed the system as "worse than communist China," condemning the "toxic professional working environment" created when abusive managers or bureaucrats have as much or more power than doctors themselves.
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