1 Jun 2011

Hospital ‘abuse’ prompts Government review

The Government has ordered an urgent review into the “inhumane” treatment of people with learning disabilities at a residential hospital in Bristol. Channel 4 News looks at the questions being asked.

Police arrested four people after the abuse was apparently exposed in undercover filming by the BBC’s Panorama, at Winterbourne View residential hospital in Bristol.

They have since been released on bail but the repercussions of the allegations have not stopped there.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow ordered a “thorough examination” of the role of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the social care services regulator – and local authorities in the case.

He also asked the CQC to carry out a series of unannounced inspections of similar services.

Read more from Channel 4 News: who regulates care homes? 

He said: “The abuse of people with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View uncovered by Panorama is shocking.

“There can be no place for such inhumanity in care services. I have already asked CQC to undertake a series of unannounced inspections of similar services.

There can be no place for such inhumanity in care services. Care Services Minister Paul Burstow

“There have been failures of inspection and adult protection which have exposed people to appalling abuse.

“I have already ordered a thorough examination of the roles of both CQC and the local authorities in this case. I am determined to strengthen the system of safeguarding to protect vulnerable adults from abuse.”

Hospital 'abuse' prompts Government review
The Care Quality Commission 
The Care Quality Commission, which regulates care homes and residential hospitals, is an arms' length body of the Government.

It is funded partly by grants from the Department of Health, and partly through registration fees. It regulates all health and adult social care services across England - in 2010, registering 20,000 adult social care services, 8,000 dental practices, and 200 healthcare trusts.

Its annual budget for 2010/2011 was £198m, and it had 1,689 staff over that period - down from 1,903 the year before. Its ten most senior staff all earn more than £100,000, apart from its chair Dame Jo Williams, whose actual pay is between £60,000 and £64,999 for three days a week. The highest earner is Chief Executive Cynthia Bower, who makes just under £200,000.

‘Clearly very shocking’

The review is likely to look into how the abuse itself took place but will also consider how a whistleblower’s complaints to the hospital’s managers, and to the CQC, were not investigated sooner.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the case was “clearly very shocking” but insisted it was too early to draw wider conclusions.

Asked if CQC had sufficient resources, he told reporters: “Clearly there have been failures in this case. We need to look at that before drawing any conclusions.”

Thirteen members of staff, including two managers, have been suspended by the hospital’s owners Castlebeck after the secret filming appeared to show carers abusing patients – including slapping them, pinning them down and throwing water over them. All patients have been moved to safety.

Both Castlebeck and the CQC apologised for failures which meant the abuses had not been dealt with sooner and have launched their own review processes into what happened at Winterbourne.