Dozens of rapes and assaults take place in hospitals every week, according to a damning report.
The official figures reveal the horrific scale of abuse – with 6,500 attacks in just three years.
They include gang rapes and attacks on children. The statistics were released today by the Women’s Rights Network, which founder Heather Binning said were “just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Hospitals are places where everyone – patients, staff and visitors – should feel completely safe, but rapes and violent assaults happen every week in hospitals,” she added.
‘The figures show that hospitals are simply not safe places. They’re almost a market for sex offenders. It’s absolutely terrifying.’
The official figures reveal the horrific scale of abuse – with 6,500 attacks in just three years (file image)
Heather Binning (right) said police were not doing enough to pursue hospital claims of sexual assault and rape
She said the magnitude of the problem had echoes of the Jimmy Savile scandal and his abuse of patients in Stoke Mandeville.
The figures are based on requests for freedom of information made to police forces in England and Wales.
Between January 2019 and October 2022, at least 2,088 rapes and 4,451 assaults were reported – an average of 33 per week. The data does not indicate whether the offenses were committed at NHS or private facilities. But a shocking one in seven occurred in hospital wards.
And only 4.1 percent of crimes resulted in charges or subpoenas.
Ms Binning claimed this ‘added to the horror’ and showed that hospitals and police forces were failing to protect the vulnerable.
She said: ‘The police are not doing enough to properly record and prosecute the crimes – these are CCTV-controlled places with limited access. Why is the rate so low?’
Her WRN group is calling on the NHS, the Care Quality Commission and the police to recognize this ‘hidden realm of sexual assault’.
Ms Binning said: ‘These statistics are breathtaking. We started this investigation because of concerns about the safety of women and children on NHS wards, but we are shocked by what we have discovered.
“The number of assaults and rapes is even more horrifying when you consider that this data relates to the pandemic, when much of the country was in lockdown and hospitals were supposedly even more vigilant.”
Reported crimes include the rape of a girl under the age of 13 and the rape of a woman by ‘frequent offenders’ in West Midlands hospitals.
Three young girls and a boy reported being raped in Cambridgeshire facilities, while six girls were allegedly assaulted in hospitals in Lancashire.
Jo Phoenix, the Reading University professor of criminology who wrote the report, said the findings showed NHS trusts ‘failed their duty to protect both patients and staff’
Jo Phoenix, the University of Reading professor of criminology who wrote the report, said the findings showed NHS trusts were ‘failing their duty to protect both patients and staff’.
She added: “The fact that 95.9 per cent of all reports took no further action or were not recorded (officially as crimes) is also truly appalling. While no reason is given within the study for this alarmingly low figure, it is clear that there appears to be an ingrained inertia in dealing with this security and policing failure.”
WRN investigators sent freedom of information requests to 43 police forces. Eight, including those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, were unable to provide the data.
Ms Binning added: ‘The actual figures will undoubtedly be much higher. Such crimes are notoriously unreported and, moreover, a lot of data is missing.’
The WRN said better recording of crimes in healthcare facilities was needed and called on the Home Office to issue guidelines for police to get a more accurate picture of the problem.
The report also called for the removal of rules stating that transgender people should be accommodated in hospital wards ‘according to their presentation’.
It says there should be “same-sex exceptions for hospital wards to ensure that women and girls in particular are adequately protected”.
Other recommendations include clear procedures for reporting and recording allegations. NHS and private hospitals are also being urged to review existing safety measures.
Ms Binning added: ‘This is serious, it’s not going away and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t get a grip on it. We thought we were past the days when someone like Jimmy Savile could go in and roam the wards unchallenged. This does have echoes of that.’
An NHS England spokesman said the figures were “unacceptable”.
They added: ‘All NHS trusts and organizations should ensure robust measures are in place to ensure immediate action is taken in cases reported to them and anyone who has experienced misconduct or violence should report it and seek help.’
Mother, 75, died of injuries after ward rape
The 75-year-old was admitted to the stroke unit at Victoria Hospital in Blackpool and recovered well before the attack
Valerie Kneale died of her injuries after being raped in a hospital ward.
The 75-year-old had been admitted to the stroke unit at Victoria Hospital in Blackpool, where she was reportedly making a good recovery.
Her heartbroken family initially thought she was in safe hands and had died of a second stroke. But a routine post-mortem revealed her horrific ordeal and saw Lancashire Police launch a murder inquiry.
The grandmother had died of bleeding after suffering a horrific internal injury as a result of a “violent assault after being hospitalized,” an investigation found.
But more than four years after her death in November 2018, her loved ones are still seeking justice for Ms Kneale, who has been described as the “linchpin of the family”.
In March 2021, a healthcare professional was arrested on suspicion of murder, rape and assault but was not charged.
A £20,000 reward has been offered in the hope that this will help provide the most important piece of information needed to ‘help unlock the case’.