First Do No Harm is an action group that connected in October 2022 and is made up of ex-patients, family and friends who were admitted to Taplow Manor or into the care of Active Care Group.
Taplow Manor, was previously known as Huntercombe Hospital until its name changed under new owners in 2021.
Earlier this year care watchdog the CQC declared it “unfit for purpose” citing cleanliness and poor training, including staff saying and doing inappropriate things, as some of the failures.
It has since been closed down and patients discharged, despite a short period where the hospital re-opened for adults.
However, ex-patients and family have said it isn’t enough and are calling for more to be done to shut down sister branches, hold staff to account and create long-term change.
Nikki Boughton-Smith, 51, whose daughter Amber Rehman, 19, was in the care of Taplow Manor for 14 months said: “We’re still living with it every day.”
She said that vulnerable patients were left “neglected, abused, terrified and traumatised”.
In 2022 The Independent, later joined by Sky News, led an investigation uncovering the abuse that occurred at Taplow Manor.
The Independent published a series of investigations revealing allegations of widespread abuse made by more than 50 patients, and multiple claims from whistleblowers that staffing levels were so low that patients had been seriously harmed.
Thames Valley Police and the CQC are currently investigating an allegation of rape at the hospital and the death of a 14-year-old girl.
On Saturday, August 5, First Do No Harm gathered outside the gates of Taplow Manor to speak about past experiences and to pay tribute to lost time and loved ones by lighting candles.
In a speech on the day, Nikki said: “I know now that I wasn’t the only mother who was in fear of her daughter’s life while she was constrained within these four walls.”
Nikki remembers her daughter’s condition deteriorating each time they met to the point of her daughter losing the will to live.
“It is not enough that it is just closed – the closing of this hospital is just the beginning for me.”
Louisa, 25, was at Taplow Manor in 2014 for five months when she was 16. She quickly realised the situation at Taplow Manor.
“It was all very sadistic and degrading – like a Victorian mental asylum,” Louisa said.
“The nights were constantly understaffed and it would kick off,” she added.
Patients would often be put under one-to-one observation, particularly if deemed ‘high-risk’.
“It was very, very strange being a teenage girl and having an adult man assigned to watch you sleep. Having people come into the bathroom with you,” Louisa said.
On the day-to-day runnings of the hospital, Louisa said: “I could see everyone else was being overmedicated so I made sure I never had any incidents.
“I would see patients getting mildly upset on the night shift and being injected with a sedative – instantly, for crying.”
“No one believed me.
“It still affects me – it’s definitely never left me.”
Ex-patients were concerned when Taplow Manor temporarily re-opened as an adult institute, with worries about those now adults being readmitted.
It came as a relief to Louisa and many others when Taplow Manor closed for good in July.
Over the past few years, First Do No Harm members began to collate their experiences, now being found in a book of poems titled, ‘Through the glass doors’, which includes claims of suicide attempts not being taken seriously, improper use of restraint, over-medication and unprofessional relationships.
Alice Copp, who was at Taplow Manor from July 2020 to September 2021 said the experience was “traumatising”.
Alice’s mother Lauren Copp added: “It’s just not what you imagine when you send your child to hospital and agree for her to get helped – and then they get kept for years and abused.
“I still can’t get my head around how that is allowed to happen in this country.
“This hospital must never open again – it must never see patients come through these gates.
“The trauma is in the walls, it can never be removed.”
The Observer put these allegations to Active Care Group.
A spokesperson for Active Care Group, said: “We were aware of the vigil that took place outside the former site of our Taplow Manor facility, which is no longer in operation.
“We want to reiterate that the safety and well-being of the people in our care is always the top priority.
“Across all its facilities, Active Care Group is committed to providing high-quality care to patients, residents, and their families, to deliver positive outcomes.”