Abuse hospital concerns raised four years ago

Published by The Mail on Sunday (26th May, 2019)

An inspector with the official health watchdog raised serious concerns four years ago over the abuse, mistreatment and poor practice at the Durham care home that were exposed in a devastating Panorama documentary last week.

Yet the review, allegedly rating Whorlton Hall ‘inadequate’ on every measure after a three-day visit by seven experts, was never published – prompting Barry Stanley-Wilkinson, a leading Care Quality Commission (CQC) investigator, to resign in protest.

Yesterday, it emerged ten workers at privately run Whorlton Hall had been arrested after undercover filming by the BBC showed patients with autism and learning disabilities being mocked, intimidated, taunted and violently restrained. 

The programme followed The Mail on Sunday’s campaign to end such abusive detention after exposing a battery of shameful practices, including long solitary confinement, forced sedation with drugs and feeding through hatches.

The CQC has apologised for missing the appalling abuse after giving the 17-bed Whorlton Hall a good rating. 

Yet Mr Stanley-Wilkinson said he highlighted a series of major issues after leading an inspection in August 2015. ‘It was a dreadful place with a really poor culture. The service displayed all the elements of abuse. It was inadequate in every area.’

Problems were clear as soon as the team entered the premises, finding a skip filled with rubbish and broken glass littering the lawn of a secure hospital holding patients with self-harm issues.

‘This is incredibly serious – it was something I’d never seen before in a psychiatric institution,’ he said.

They also discovered a so-called ‘Room Ten’, where there was just a sofa, being used for seclusion, despite a lack of logs or policies for such methods – and more than 100 restraint instances on just seven patients over less than six months. 

Mr Stanley-Wilkinson said members of the inspection team were so worried they went back at night and found staff all eating while patients – supposed to be under constant supervision – were left on their own.

‘It was really dangerous – some patients had a history of sexually assaulting others,’ he said.

Mr Stanley-Wilkinson, whose son has learning disabilities, was devastated to see the BBC exposé last week. ‘I always knew something like this would happen. We knew how bad Whorlton Hall was.’

Yesterday, the CQC said Mr Stanley-Wilkinson’s draft report ‘did not raise any concerns about abusive practice’ and his team ‘had not collected evidence that was robust enough to substantiate a rating of Requires Improvement’.

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