Unfortunately, your browser is too old to work on this website. Please upgrade your browser

National scandals regarding care in 'mental handicap' hospitals

During the 1970s, there were several public reports which pointed towards the systematic abuse of, and poor quality of care provided to, people with severe learning difficulties and mental health illnesses.

Instances of poor staffing, lack of professional leadership, corruption, poor quality of care, mistreatment and serious violence were revealed in multiple hospitals, including:

  • 1970: Farleigh Hospital, Somerset
  • 1971: Whittingham Hospital, Lancashire
  • 1972: Napsbury Hospital, Hertfordshire
  • 1972: South Ockendon Hospital, Essex.

In 1976, nursing members of the Confederation of Health Service Employees (COHSE) at Normansfield Hospital went on strike following attempts by management to block justified complaints about poor care. The subsequent public inquiry showed patients had an appalling quality of life and senior medical, nursing and administrative staff failed to co-operate with each other.

The extremely low standard of patient care and the hostility between one consultant and virtually all other staff were well known to everyone at every level. All agreed that the situation was unacceptable. However, nothing was done until the nurses' action brought instant response.


Rivett G.
From Cradle to Grave: The history of the NHS. 1948 - 1987.
The King's Fund; 1998.