UK Legislators Called On to Increase Oversight and Criminal Accountability in U.S. Owned For-Profit Behavioral Hospitals

When patient care in hospitals takes a backseat to corporate profits, patients always lose. They not only lose in overall quality of care, but also when it comes to personal safety. – Hodes Milman, LLC

By CCHR International
November 5, 2019

Hundreds of UK legislators have been sent a White Paper on Fraud and Abuse in the UK’s for-profit behavioral industry, calling for tighter oversight and accountability of facilities owned by U.S companies, Acadia Healthcare and Universal Health Services (UHS). The mental health watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International wants regulations that ensure greater criminal and civil penalties for continued violations of patient care, patient suicides and damage inflicted from dangerously administered treatment, including electroshock therapy (ECT). They also recommend there be police investigations and prosecution of patient restraint deaths; tougher penalties for fraudulent billing practices as well as cancellation of National Health Service (NHS) or other government funding and hospital closures.

As it has done in the United States, since 2015, CCHR has brought evidence of patient abuse to the attention of UK government authorities, including its Care Quality Commission (CQC), NHS, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in relation to facilities owned by UHS and Acadia Healthcare that have significant investments in the UK psychiatric hospital market. UHS owns Cygnet Healthcare and Acadia owns The Priory Group.

The Daily Echo recently reported that Priory Hospital Blandford in Blandford Forum, England announced it will close in mid-December following admissions being suspended in July 2019 after it failed an inspection. As reported, “Young people told inspectors they felt unsafe on the wards and that there had been a number of incidents where young people had assaulted.” The Care Quality Commissioners found that staff frequently used physical restraint. Not all incidents—particularly around physical assault and racial abuse—were reported, according to inspectors.[1]

In October, the UK Telegraph reported that Acadia is now looking at splitting up and selling the £1 billion ($1.2 bn) Priory enterprise,[2] “amid another hospital closure that has added to the string of setbacks plaguing the company.” However, CCHR says the whole network should be shut down.

In 2016, The Financial Times covered concerns about U.S. companies such as Acadia and UHS entering the UK market for the first time in 2015, “helping to fuel a deal-making spree in the sector. The number of takeovers of mental healthcare providers rose from 16 in 2014 to 22 in 2015.” Acadia accounted for about a third of the UK’s private behavioral services.[3] The market for behavioral care in the UK had grown at 9.2 per cent annually from 2004 to 2014, largely due to a decline in NHS funding for government clinics, Acadia said. It reported that private operators controlled about 8 per cent of the £19.4 billion (US $25 billion) market.[4] The Priory holds more than £500,000 ($643,372) of NHS contracts.[5]

CCHR’s 2016 and 2017 complaints to UK authorities detailed, “While Acadia grew its revenue by acquisition, it also grew its profit by significant cost cuts that could be linked to reduced quality of patient care and safety. Staffing problems and patient-safety issues often crop up in for-profit mental-health facilities.”[6]

UHS-owned facilities have also come under scrutiny in the UK. Between December 2018 and February 2019, BBC Panorama, had found horrific patient abuses at Whorlton Hall in County Durham, owned by Cygnet (UHS).[7] The undercover documentary recorded staff abusing patients with learning disabilities which were branded as “tantamount to psychological torture” by the Labour Party.[8]

In May 2019, Whorlton closed as a result of the undercover investigation which revealed the evidence of staff claiming to have deliberately harmed patients.[9]

CCHR told UK authorities about the problems Acadia and UHS were facing in the U.S. According to Capital Forum, “Acadia and/or its facilities have been the target of lawsuits over injuries and deaths occurring at the facilities.” In October 2018, Acadia announced the closure of 10 of its childcare facilities in Arkansas after manslaughter charges had been filed against several of its staff for leaving a five-year-old boy strapped in a car that reached temperatures of 141 degrees that killed him.[10] In April 2019, New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, or CYFD, forced Acadia’s Desert Hills facility to close, following allegations of abuse and safety issues. A spokesman admitted that workers at Desert Hills used chemical restraints on children regardless of The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department’s request for them to stop.[11]

Then in April, The Chicago Tribune reported that six lawsuits had been filed alleging abuse and safety issues at Acadia Healthcare facility Timberline Knolls in Lemont, Illinois. The lawsuits were in connection to counselor Michael Jacksa who has been charged with sexual assault and abuse. The six separate lawsuits alleged that the high-end facility for women and girls showed reckless disregard for patient safety by hiring and failing to supervise therapist Michael Jacksa as well as “intentional infliction of emotional distress” on patients who sought treatment for psychological and behavioral disorders.[12]

The following month, the company agreed to pay $17 million (£13.1 million) to settle accusations of fraud, representing the largest fraud-related settlement in the history of Virginia, according to a settlement agreement with the state.[13]

To encapsulate what has been happening in the UK and U.S., one law firm put it this way: “When patient care in hospitals takes a backseat to corporate profits, patients always lose. They not only lose in overall quality of care, but also when it comes to personal safety. In addition to just plain poor medical attention, some patients become the victims of various forms of criminal abuse, including sexual misconduct by doctors, assault, and rape by…doctors, non-medical staff, and even other patients.”[14]

CCHR UK and CCHR International collaborated on the White Paper sent to Parliamentarians hoping for greater patient protections and criminal and or financial accountability to be implemented.


[1] “’Unsafe’ Blandford child psychiatric hospital to close after just a year,” Daily Echo, 25 Oct. 2019,

[2] “Health giant Acadia plots break up of Priory Group,” The Telegraph, 27 Oct. 2019,

[3] “US investors lead dealmaking spree in British mental healthcare Acadia’s purchase of Priory to unleash wave of consolidation,” The Financial Times, 7 Feb 2016,,

[4] “Acadia Healthcare to buy UK’s Partnerships in Care for $660 mln,” Reuters Business Wire, 3 June 2014,

[5] “Owner of scandal-hit mental healthcare giant The Priory Group to test market for a £1billion sale,” This is Money, 20 Apr. 2019,

[6] “Acadia Healthcare grows as mental health treatment soars,” Fortune, 29 Oct. 2015,

[7] Joe Plomin, “Whorlton Hall hospital abuse and how it was uncovered,” BBC News, 22 May 2019,; Jasmine Andersson, “Whorlton Hall: BBC Panorama investigation shows care stuff abusing vulnerable adults in County Durham hospital,” iNews, 23 May 2019,

[8] “Whorlton Hall abuse: Care watchdog publishes report,” BBC News, 10 June 2019,

[9] “Whorlton Hall hospital closes as Panorama screens abuse allegations,” The Northern Echo, 22 May 2019,


[11] citing: “Neighbors who live near Desert Hills Hospital are happy it’s closed,” KOAT Action News, 1 Apr. 2019,

[12] “6 lawsuits claim abuse, safety lapses at Timberline Knolls treatment facility,” The Chicago Tribune, 4 Apr. 2019,

[13] “Acadia Healthcare to pay $17 million in settlement of Medicare fraud case: Medicaid paid Acadia’s facilities a much higher amount for blood and urine tests than its lab had charged for the analysis,” Healthcare Finance, 8 May 2019,