Independent investigation agreed into treatment of woman with severe learning disabilities at the Manor Hospital in Walsall

An independent investigation will be held following a settlement agreement, approved by the High Court, for a 64-year-old woman with severe learning disabilities who was abused, and the doll, which she used for comfort and which she believes is her own baby, was severely damaged during a hospital stay.

The agreed settlement of £65k follows the ordeal of Susan Hearsey at the Manor Hospital in Walsall.

The Trust, which has already issued a formal apology to the family and admitted causing damage to the doll, has now also agreed to an independent investigation.

Susan Hearsey was admitted to the Manor Hospital, part of the Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, in September 2013 following a fall; but her family say that instead of receiving the care she needed she was subjected to ‘inhumane’ treatment.

The family’s legal representative – Merry Varney from law firm Leigh Day - confirmed that the settlement was approved earlier last week at an open-court approval hearing that took place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

The Court was told that in addition to the compensation the Trust had agreed to an independent investigation into the events, which took place whilst Mrs Hearsey was in the hospital.

Susan’s sister Jane Dunn, who says that the ordeal, in which the doll was found on the floor with its arm severed, some clothes missing, the legs damaged and a chunk of its hair missing, has had a ‘devastating effect’ on Susan and her family.

Leigh Day human rights expert Merry Varney, the lawyer representing the family in their battle for answers, said the money would now go towards paying for the necessary equipment to enable Susan to access the care and therapy she needs to start to recover from her ordeal, most importantly being able to spend more time doing activities she used to enjoy.

She said: “Susan, a vulnerable patient with a severe learning disability, loved her baby doll as though it was her own child and she may never recover from the cruelty she suffered while at the Walsall Manor Hospital.

“After facing denials from the Hospital and only an offer to replace the doll, achieving financial compensation and an independent investigation finally brings her some justice.

“This case underlines the important protections afforded by our Human Rights Act, which we relied upon to argue for these wider outcomes for Susan.”

In addition to the damage caused to the doll the Trust faced allegations of wider neglect and abuse including that staff were distracted whilst on duty and lacked an understanding of Susan’s special needs; that she was not provided adequate hygienic care and that her doll was purposefully damaged by a nurse because Susan was not doing as she was asked.

Dan Scorer, head of policy at Mencap, said: “We are pleased that the High Court has appreciated the seriousness of what happened to Susan Hearsey at the Manor Hospital in Walsall. She was subjected to appalling treatment from the very people who were meant to be caring for her.

“This case unfortunately highlights the failures of care that are a daily reality for many people with a learning disability trying to access the NHS. 1,200 people with a learning disability die avoidably in the NHS every year due to poor care. This needs to end. We urgently need better learning disability awareness training for hospital staff.”