Lorraine was detained under the Mental Health Act in hospital. When she was admitted there were no bedrooms available. The hospital were in the process of turning a meeting room into an extra bedroom for patients, and as there were no other beds available at that time in the Trust, Lorraine was admitted into this unfinished room. The meeting room had a window on the door, with no curtain, so staff (and potentially other patients) could see into her room at all times. Unlike the other bedrooms on this ward, there was no bathroom in the room, and Lorraine had continence problems which meant she needed to use the toilet throughout the night. The communal toilet for the ward in the corridor was locked during the night for safety reasons, which meant she would have to call the night staff to take her to the toilet and wait outside. The night staff were not happy about this procedure, so instead gave Lorraine a bucket to use as a toilet in her room.

Lorraine was very embarrassed about using the bucket. She found it even more distressing that she had to empty and clean the bucket herself (as she was too embarrassed to continuously ask staff to do so on her behalf), by carrying it to the communal toilet in the corridor in view of staff and patients on the ward. Lorraine had an advocate, Rajesh, supporting her. Rajesh had received training on human rights from BIHR. He recognised this as a human rights issue and raised it at the ward review with the responsible clinician and the primary nurse, using Lorraine’s right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment (protected by Article 3 in the HRA). It hadn’t occurred to the staff until then that it was a human rights issue at all, but once Rajesh raised it as such, the staff agreed and immediately acted. They moved Lorraine to another room with a toilet (which had since become free) and didn’t use the meeting room as a bedroom again until a toilet had been installed in the room. Rajesh also wrote a letter to the modern matron about the issue, to make sure the concerns raised were on record.   

Example from BIHR’s project Care and Support: A Human Rights Approach to Advocacy

Watch a short video about this story here.

This story is also shared in BIHR's booklet Mental Health, Mental Capacity: Raising a Human Rights Issue