Sky News and The Independent launch new podcast series, Patient 11, a story of sexual abuse in NHS mental health trusts

Monday 29 January 2024
  • Narrated by Nicholas Pinnock, Patient 11 tells the story of autism patient Alexis Quinn’s daring escape from NHS psychiatric care 
  • A wider investigation reveals the scale of sexual abuse allegations in care across the country, with almost 20,000 claims in just four years 

Patient 11, a new four-part podcast series from Sky News and The Independent, tells the story of Alexis Quinn, whose escape from psychiatric care led to a landmark national investigation that has revealed tens of thousands of unreported allegations of sexual assault and rape in NHS mental health inpatient units across England. 

Narrated by Nicholas Pinnock (Top Boy, Django, For Life), Patient 11 recounts the dramatic story of Quinn, a young mother and former GB swimmer with undiagnosed autism, and how her three-day admission in a secure mental health hospital turned into a three-year ordeal of isolation, forced restraint and sexual assault, before a daring plot to break free.

Alexis Quinn said: “They locked me up for three-and-a-half years and were prepared to throw away the key. They had no hope for me. And then I learned how prolific it was…I thought it was just me, but it’s not just me, there are thousands of people (like me).” 

David Rhodes, Sky News Executive Chairman, said: "Sky News are so pleased to present this story in partnership with The Independent.  There's so much our organisations can do together to report challenging stories and make sure they reach the broadest audience possible."

Geordie Greig, The Independent’s Editor-In-Chief, said: “This investigation highlights a shocking abuse of patients who are the most vulnerable people in society.  The results of this campaign by investigative reporters from The Independent and Sky News must lead to a government action and a reform of how mental health hospitals are run and governed. I am very proud of the extraordinary work carried out by the journalists involved but appalled that such failings to those most in need have occurred."

The wider investigation  

Sparked by Alexis’ testimony in Patient 11, Sky News and The Independent worked together for nearly 18 months investigating sexual abuse allegations in NHS England mental health trusts.   

The findings of this work have been described as a ‘national scandal’ by former Victim’s Commissioner Dame Vera Baird. The investigation has prompted calls for a major inquiry by Charlie Brooker, one of the authors of the 2019 gold standard government-backed sexual safeguarding protections, The Sexual Safety Collaborative.  

Key findings revealed in Patient 11 and the surrounding investigation:   

  • 19,889 sexual assault and harassment complaints recorded by more than 30 (out of more than 50) NHS England trusts from 2019 to November 2023. (Complaints made by both patients and staff)  
  • Fewer than a thousand incidents were reported to police in the same period. 
  • Just 14 NHS England trusts have told Sky News and The Independent that they have audited-in the 2019 government backed sexual safeguarding protections (The Sexual Safety Collaborative) - a set of protections brought about due to concerns over the then rising number of sexual abuse complaints in NHS England and NHS England supported mental health settings.   
  • Only six NHS England trusts provided evidence that they had completed audits of how they adhere to government-backed sexual safety standards.
  • More than 800 sexual assault or rape allegations from 2019 to November 2023 across 21 NHS England Trusts - with just 95 of those allegations being reported to the police.  
  • 552 sexual assault allegations made on mixed sex wards/shared spaces across 21 NHS England Trusts. 

All episodes of Patient 11 are available now on the StoryCast feed and on all podcast players.

Credits: Written and produced by Robert Mulhern. Reporting by Rebecca Thomas and Robert Mulhern. Editing by Paul Stanworth. Data and Forensics by Saywah Mamood. Socials by David Chipakupaku. Story commissioned by Dave Terris (Head of Radio, Sky News). 

Notes to editors:

Synopsis: Patient 11

Young mother and former GB youth swimmer, Alexis Quinn, agrees to enter NHS England psychiatric care following a family tragedy. She could never imagine that her three-day admission would turn into a three-year ordeal.

Undiagnosed with autism, and often the subject of 24-hour surveillance as well as long periods in solitary confinement, Alexis descends to the darkest reaches of locked-in, psychiatric care. There, she encounters the kind of threat she never could have imagined in a secure mental health hospital. In a bid to break free, Alexis plots a daring escape.

Making it back to her daughter, however, will pit her against some of the most powerful institutions in the state, including the police.

Episode guide: 

1: Locked-up and drugged   

Following the death of her brother, young mother Alexis Quinn seeks temporary respite in NHS psychiatric care. She could never imagine that her three-day admission will turn into a three-year ordeal and a descent to the darkest reaches of psychiatric care.

2: In harm’s way   

Legally detained and separated from her daughter for more than a year, Alexis finally gets a diagnosis. She's then moved to an all-male psychiatric ward on Christmas Eve, 2013. What happens next will ultimately bring her to the attention of the most powerful institutions in the state.

3: Escape Plan    

Having endured long periods in solitary and descended to the darkest reaches of psychiatric care, Alexis plots an escape – one that, if successful, will take her thousands of miles from England.

4: Breaking free   

A long-serving doctor and his retired partner agree to try to help Alexis break out of psychiatric care and flee the country. It’s a decision that will change all of their lives, and lead to her pursuit by both the authorities and the police across two continents.


Sian Parry, Head of PR, Sky News 

Graham Kelly, Hawthorn Advisors