Britain’s ‘loneliest man’ is finally set to go home after 21 years away from his family.
Tony Hickmott has been given the green light to finally leave the safe hospital where he has spent the last two decades.
The 45-year-old, who is autistic, will move into his own home close to his elderly parents in Brighton.
His father Roy, 82, said: “He wants to go to the pub with me. The last time I took him to a pub was when he was 18 and he had a lemonade and a cheese sandwich.”
“I’ll have a pint and he can have a half and he says he’ll have a cheesecake. That’s what he wants, a cheese roll. I can barely wait for it. It will be heaven.”
Tony was assigned after suffering a mental health crisis in 2001 and has since been held in a unit 120 miles from his elderly parents.
Despite a hard-fought campaign by his family, he was left locked in a locked room at the Kent hospital facility almost 24 hours a day.
Roy added: “It’s been a really long journey but I’m excited to have him back.
“You wouldn’t treat an animal the way Tony was treated. It is shocking and shows how indifferent we have become as a society.”
Last year a senior judge criticized his detention and urged authorities to find a home near his parents in Brighton.
Now, 21 years later, he’s finally going home after the council got him his own bungalow just five miles from his parents’.
His mother Pamela, a retired NHS worker, said she and her husband had struggled for more than 20 years to get proper care for their son.
“I’m over the moon,” said Pamela, 78. “It’s been a long, long road and we’ve had to overcome great hurdles to bring authorities to their senses, but we’re delighted to finally have our boy back.”
“We had to fight for years to get this far. The amount of bureaucracy, inefficiency and oversight on the part of the authorities was overwhelming.
“Tony hasn’t had any special treatment for his autism in all this time. It is shocking.”
Around 2,000 people with learning disabilities or autism are incarcerated in specialist hospitals across England, according to a BBC inquiry.
Tony is one of 100 people with learning disabilities in England who have been held in secure Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) – units intended only to serve as a short-term safe place in a crisis – for more than 20 years.
He was committed under the Mental Health Act in 2001 and his parents were told he would be treated for nine months before returning home.
Although he was eventually declared “eligible for parole” in 2013, he has waited another nine years while authorities find him a suitable home with the right level of care.
Whistleblower Phil Devine, who worked at the private facility where Mr Hickmott lives, said he was “treated like an animal” and was the “loneliest man in the hospital”.
The caregiver said that unlike other patients, Tony had very little freedom and spent all his time in “solitary confinement.”
Tony’s parents were previously barred from speaking about his case because a gag order was lifted last year.
They are angry that no action was taken until the gag order was lifted and they were finally allowed to speak publicly about the scandal.
“It’s amazing,” said Roy, a retired electrical engineer. “A lot of people made a lot of money from this case.
“Officials say it has cost around £11million to look after Tony over the last 20 years – but that’s on the low side. He could have stayed in a five-star hotel for that.
“It was such a waste of time and money for everyone, although I’m relieved that he’s finally coming home and finding accommodation that better suits his needs.
“Fighting tooth and nail for this over the past 20 years has taken a tremendous toll on Pam and I, but it’s nothing compared to what Tony has endured.
“He was the loneliest man in the country, locked in solitary confinement the whole time when he should have had specialized treatment for autism to help him reach his potential. He was just thrown in a room and forgotten – that’s a scandal.”
Earlier this year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said the hospital where Tony was treated was not meeting people’s needs, and inspectors halted further admissions because they believed “people would or could be at significant risk of harm.” “.
The report highlighted staff shortages, a lack of training and an increase in restrictive interventions. It reported how relatives of patients said their loved ones were heavily medicated and had few meaningful activities to enjoy.
Last year, a select committee of MPs backed campaigners’ calls to end the scandal of wrongly detained autistic people, saying such hospitals should be closed by 2024.
A care team is now being assembled for Tony and he is expected to move into his new home on November 1st.
Roy said: “We are really looking forward to this appointment and do not want to see any delays from the authorities.”
Robert Persey, Executive Director for Health and Social Care at Brighton and Hove Council, admitted there had been unacceptable delays in Mr Hickmott’s case – but said the process was both complicated and costly. Community care must be funded by the community.
He said: “It’s been taking far too long. It is complicated to provide all the elements like accommodation and caregivers at the right time.
“Local government [funding] is constantly being shortened. Still, we have a responsibility to take care of these people as best we can and it’s really difficult to find and get the funding.”
https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/23019182.autistic-man-brighton-released-hospital-21-years/?ref=rss Brighton autistic man to be discharged from hospital after 21 years