National Health Service

NHS trust investigates online pictures of psychiatric patients and staff

An NHS trust has launched an investigation after some of its psychiatric staff and patients were pictured online.

A patient used his mobile phone to take dozens of pictures which he then posted on the video website,

The voluntary patient, Martin Smith, took the photos between October and November at the Arden psychiatric ward at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

It is the first time such a series of photographs from inside mental health units have been displayed online.

The images, accompanied by a soundtrack by David Gray, include those of the patient’s psychiatrist, staff and other patients.

Pennine Care NHS Trust said the posting of the photographs online breached confidentiality.

But Mr Smith, now discharged, said he is undecided whether or not he will withdraw the series of images, entitled Mad October.’s terms and conditions state that those who post images onto its website do so at their own risk.

The largely evocative images taken by Mr Smith include those of liquid medication lined up ready to be taken, patients playing pool, chatting to staff and sleeping on sofas.

However, one photo in the two-minute series stands out. It is that of a patient standing next to a ward bed with two 10-inch hunting knives.

Mr Smith, who had been treated for bipolar disorder, told that he had decided to display this particular picture because he had been disturbed that someone could have such knives with them in a ward treating vulnerable people.

“It shocked me that this happened, as it would shock anyone,” he said.

“Maybe it was a one-off, and I know staff can not search people because it’s an invasion of privacy. But it [the policy of not searching] did not work in this case.”

The patient pictured with the knives told that he has a small collection of knives, and had no intention of harming anyone. He has also been discharged.

The trust said it prohibits the videoing of service users or the use of mobile phones on its premises.

“This is in part to protect service users from agreeing to being filmed at a time when they may be vulnerable,” said the trust.

“Of specific concern is the image of a male holding two knives. It is difficult to clearly establish whether this is in the mental health unit, however, we are treating this seriously and are carrying out a full investigation.”




* One name has been changed in this report

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