Therapy or Torture?


In ‘Electroconvulsive Trauma?  we highlighted current academic research on ECT, which led to 40 mental health professionals, patients and carers signing an Open Letter to the Care Quality Commission (widely copied within the NHS) asking that ECT be suspended. 

We expressed special concern about a training video on depression for registered mental health nurses, produced by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. It underplayed seriously the risks associated with ECT: leading academic, Dr John Read deemed it:

“Irresponsible not to mention brain damage/memory loss.”

In 6 years to 2017-18, Southern Heath administered no less than 10,592 ECT ‘treatments’:

Press & FOI 001 - Copy

As this a serious  patient safety issue, we emailed (via  Complaints Manager, Kate Oliver) Ron Shields (CEO), Paula Hull (Director of Nursing) and Dr David Hicks (Non-executive Director) on 3 September 2020 about the video. We asked them to confirm that:

  • The errant training video will be taken down immediately (permanently or pending an edit).
  • Those attending that tutorial will receive updated advice on ECT.
  • All Consultants, junior doctors and registered mental health nurses will receive updated advice on ECT.
  • Pursuant to Prof. Read’s opinion, consent forms for ECT will emphasise the risk of brain damage/memory loss.

And we added in closing:


Clearly, this is a matter that requires urgent attention. Please let me have an action plan to address this issue, a target date for completion, and, once completed, a link to the new/edited tutorial and a copy of the consent form.”

The full text of the email is available here→.

Also, we have filed a Freedom of Information Request via ‘WhatDoTheyKnow‘¹ to request ECT figures for the last two years along with the following additional information including:

  • How many Southern Health patients have received Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)?
  • On average, how many ECT cycles did each patient received?
  • How many patients were given ECT without their consent?
  • How many patients were given ECT against the wishes of their nearest relative or other family members?
  • How many serious side-effects were recorded and what were these side-effects?
  • How many complaints were received from patients/carers as a result of ECT?
  • Why does the Trust train registered mental health nurses to believe that, “[ECT is] very old… seems a bit strange…. seems to improve mood when really depressed – it’s really effective, we don’t know why or how [but] it works for a lot” when there is no scientific evidence to support this view?
  • Why are the nurses not made aware of the risks of brain damage and memory loss?

The FOI request is here, where the Trust’s response will me made public too.  


¹ WhatDoTheyKnow: How it works: under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (as amended) everyone has the right to request information from any publicly-funded body, and get answers. WhatDoTheyKnow helps you make a Freedom of Information request. It also publishes all requests and responses to ensure the widest possible exposure to the public.

There are currently 255 FOI requests recorded here for Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and a further 11 here for its predecessor organisation. For the purposes of openness and transparency, CRASH thoroughly recommends filing an FOI through its website.

1 thought on “Therapy or Torture?

  1. Pingback: Substantial Meal? | Campaign for Reform At Southern Health

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