Photo: EUGENE HENDERSON
Former patients of the late Dr Kenneth Milner claim he used them as "guinea pigs" by giving them anti-psychotics and anaesthetics without permission
A doctor carried out "horrendous" experiments on patients at a mental hospital, including children, to correct mentally-defective and "deviant" behaviour, it has been claimed.
Former patients of Aston Hall Hospital in Derbyshire say drug tests were carried out on them by its head physician, Dr Kenneth Milner over many years.
They say Dr Milner, who worked at the unit for almost 30 years, used high dosages of anti-psychotics and anaesthetics on them without permission.
Campaigners say the abuse has damaged the lives of former patients and their families and the effects are still being felt decades on. Now police and NHS chiefs are looking into the claims that the former patients were used as "guinea pigs" by the head physician.Ex-patients claim the treatments were administered under the guise of trying to correct behaviour. One alleged victim claimed Dr Milner "would use us for medical experiments".
At least ten alleged victims, some of whom are local and others who are overseas have contacted a solicitor and are looking at the possibility of making claims. Dr Milner, who had worked at Broadmoor and Rampton during a long and distinguished career, was at Aston Hall from 1947 until 1975. He died the following year.
The sprawling property was sold by its owners in 1924 to the Nottingham Corporation and became a psychiatric hospital in 1930s.
But attitudes towards the treatment of people with mental health issues changed, and in October 1998, Southern Derbyshire Health Authority, which had taken over the hospital, announced its closure and proposals to resettle its patients in the community.
The closure came amid fierce opposition from locals who wanted a village community to care for the 58 patients still on the site.
Karen Gray has launched an organisation which supports victims of abuse called the Fighting Back Foundation.
Ms Gray, who lives in Huddersfield, West Yorks, said: "We were contacted last year by survivors of Aston Hall Hospital at which point we did some basic research into the place to see what had been going on there."
She said: "The alarming results led to contact with the police to pass everything on to safeguarding to assist with a proper investigation.
"The treatment of those children in the guise of care was horrendous.
"The bravery of the survivors in both coming forward and speaking out, can only be commended and should be supported."
Ms Gray said survivors' families have also suffered as a result.
"I have spoken with police on behalf of survivors and I try to fill the gap left by inadequate counselling services for both survivors and their immediate families," she said.
"The families are the ones that bear the brunt of emotional outbursts.
"As we move toward the Goddard Inquiry (into widespread child abuse), it is important that survivors are supported. This is the final chance for justice and a sense of closure."
Asked about the claims Detective inspector Simon Tunnicliffe of Derbyshire Police said: "We are aware of complaints surrounding the hospital and we are currently working with partners to assess the nature of the allegations."
Sylvia Knight, NHS England deputy director of nursing (Midlands and East) said: "NHS England is aware that historic abuse allegations have been made in relation to residents of the former NHS learning disabilities facility at Aston Hall, Derby.
"It is important that anyone who feels they have been a victim receives support and we are talking with Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to ensure that it and other organisations provide all necessary help and support."
Nottingham's police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping said that, as part of two current police probes into alleged child abuse in the county, "people have made allegations about Aston Hall".
He said he had heard of claims of experimentation at the hospital in Aston-on-Trent, near from other sources.
Mr Tipping said: "I think it is really important that any victims come forward and talk to the police. Or if anybody has concerns or information which might help the police then I would also please ask them to come forward. They are very important."
South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler has also spoken out about the investigation. She has urged alleged victims to contact the police with any information.
"I am shocked to hear this news, especially the fact that the man who has been accused has died," she said.
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"This will make looking into this very difficult, but at no point should anybody be scared or worried to come forward and talk to the authorities.
"I would urge anybody who knows anything to contact the police and tell them.
"I have lived in South Derbyshire for 27 years and I knew that Aston Hall had older residents, but I did not know they had a children's wing.
"I sincerely hope that people making their complaints can go to the authorities and put their minds at rest."
The MP said she feared that abuse which has not been discovered could have happened at other institutions in the country.
She said: "If it happened at Aston Hall then maybe it happened at other mental institutions and maybe it happened at the time so it was not looked at.
"I will be watching the investigation closely to see how it progresses."