What happened to Alison?

My sister Alison was 21 when admitted to an NHS Hospital in Carlisle in 1987. She was a deeply troubled mentally ill vulnerable young woman who found herself in a Victorian Style Asylum when Mental Health was a taboo.  She was miles from home, scared, alone and confused. We did not know it but a member of staff who was 35yrs old, a trainee nurse called Robert Scott-Buccleuch was taking a sexual interest in Alison. He had life experience and was nearly old enough to be her father. If older men in positions of trust developed relationships with vulnerable mentally ill young women today, we would call it grooming. Engaging in sex with vulnerable mental health patients is not only unlawful, it is an abuse of trust that flies in the face of all available guidance.

No civilised person thinks it is “ok” for staff in Mental Health Hospitals to have sex with vulnerable people they are supposed to be caring for. For patients to be subject to nurse’s desires is the stuff of nightmares; like fish in a barrel at the mercy of the unscrupulous. I often wonder where managers & staff were, while a 35yr old male member of staff had sex on hospital premises with a young patient? It has emerged that staff and managers knew what was going on and turned a blind eye. They also ignored a duty of care to protect Alison.

Alison was under the “care” of the NHS as an inpatient and outpatient at the Garlands for over a year. On the 12th August 1988, unknown to us, as a result of the illegal sex acts of her carer, Alison had an abortion in Carlisle Hospital. The male nurse who was supposed to be caring for Alison knew about the pregnancy and the termination and did not share information with anyone, including the Psychiatrist treating Alison. Scott-Buccleuch kept quiet about his crimes and then became distant to Alison. We recently found out that he even accompanied Alison to some of her appointments so he would know what was being talked about. Distraught, depressed and now cast adrift, Alison moved to Doncaster to be near her Mum. We had entrusted Alison to the care of the NHS because we were told she needed expert help and support, but she emerged from the care of the NHS in Cumbria more damaged and confused than when she entered. On Friday, December 13th, 1991, after a long struggle with depression, Alison committed suicide. She took off her coat, placed her handbag on the station platform and stepped in front a train at Rotherham Station. Alison had been used for the sexual gratification of someone who was supposed to care for her and when things became complicated had been cast aside to fend for herself and deal with the aftermath of what she had been put through.

We buried Alison on a dark grey and unforgiving Christmas Eve. We could not have an open casket at the funeral, the injuries to her face and body were so severe. When Alison stepped in front a train on a cold Friday in December, the trainee nurse who took advantage of her and the staff and managers who let her abuse happen, these people may as well have had their hands on her shoulders guiding her into the train’s path. There are reasons for the professional boundaries that exist in healthcare and they should not be broken, the consequences can be disastrous and the impact on those left behind lasts a lifetime. Nobody has yet been held accountable for what happened to Alison.

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