mobile phoneA London-based mental health trust is conducting an investigation after an allegation that a heavily pregnant patient was knocked from a chair and pinned face-down by staff in a psychiatric hospital.

The alleged incident, which happened on July 10, involved a woman, who was 8½ months pregnant, being verbally aggressive – but not making physical threats – getting pushed to the floor by a male nurse before being held down by 3 members of staff. 

Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL) said a member of staff had been removed from clinical duties while the incident was investigated.

The alleged incident was witnessed by Alison Cameron – a mental health activist and former government advisor – who was also an inpatient at the time and tweeted about it, and has since reported her allegations to regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Speaking to the BBC, Cameron said the ward was: “… far from therapeutic. I noted from the outset a lot of what I would describe as manhandling of patients which appeared to me to be the accepted culture on the ward.” 

In addition, the ward was short-staffed, with lots of bank and agency nurses, Cameron said. "There was constant shouting and swearing, everyone was tense and tired, there was potential aggression from patients, and the staff were very demoralised. I needed peace and quiet, and rest, to help me recover and I could see that wasn't possible."

In response, a spokesperson for CNWL said: “We knew about this very quickly as another patient tweeted about it.

“The chief executive immediately asked for an investigation which is well underway; witnesses (staff and patients) are being interviewed to find out what happened. We want to know why restraint was necessary, because it is always an extreme event, even when occasionally needed. It is obviously distressing for that person and sometimes for others who see it.

“After the incident a doctor examined the woman in question and she was fine. We are working with her and her family about the incident and helping her from here.

“We’re keeping the CQC informed.

“Until the investigation is completed, the member of staff involved has been taken off clinical duties, which is a normal – and neutral - step following this type of allegation.”

The spokesperson also noted that Cameron also tweeted ended with: “Session with ward manager has been absolutely constructive. Not one hint of defensiveness. (CNWL) should be proud of this lady.”