Abused patients from closed care home may be at risk in new placements, investigation shows

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 30 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7336
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. 1London

New concerns have been raised that some of the patients who were moved out of a disgraced private care home after “horrifying abuse” may have remained at risk in other homes.

NHS figures show that “safeguarding alerts” have been issued for at least 19 of the 51 former patients of Winterbourne View hospital, near Bristol, since they were moved to other care homes.

At least one case involved an assault, and in another a criminal inquiry was under way, according to a BBC Panorama programme broadcast on Monday 29 October.

Safeguarding alerts mean that incidents of concern have been reported to council staff, which could range from accidental injury to serious abuse but do not necessarily mean that someone was deliberately harmed.

The health minister Norman Lamb, who is responsible for care services, said that there was “no excuse” for instances of “inappropriate and poor quality care.”

Winterbourne View, which was run by the private service provider Castlebeck and was being paid £3500 (€3950; $5700) a patient a week from public funds, was closed down after a Panorama investigation in 2011 uncovered mistreatment of patients with learning disabilities.1

The programme secretly filmed workers over four weeks slapping and kicking residents, taunting them, pinning them under chairs, and drenching them with cold water.

Last week 11 former members of staff were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court for the ill treatment and neglect of patients at the home. Six support workers were jailed, and five other defendants were given suspended sentences. The judge condemned the way the hospital was run and its “culture of cruelty.”

Lamb said that he hoped the verdicts would send a “clear message” that such criminal behaviour would not be tolerated and that there would be “real consequences for the perpetrators.”

The latest Panorama programme featured fresh concerns about what has happened to some of the former patients who remained in the care system. It examined care records showing that patients were involved in upsetting “safety” incidents at other care homes that in some cases had led to disciplinary action being taken against staff. Parents of patients expressed concern and said that they had not been kept fully informed about incidents.

The health minister said that a review set up by the Department of Health for England2 “has found clear evidence that there are far too many people in specialist inpatient learning disability services (including assessment and treatment units) and many are staying there for too long.”

Calling for this practice to stop, he said, “People often end up in these facilities due to crises which are preventable or could be managed if people are given the right support in their homes or in community settings.”

Lamb said that he would be publishing a final report “shortly” and a concordat setting out the responsibilities of the government, commissioners and providers of services, and professional bodies and regulators.

He said, “The key priorities are to address unacceptable failures of commissioning and to improve the capacity and capability of commissioning across health and care for people with behaviour which challenges, with the aim of driving up the quality of care they receive, improving their lives, and significantly reducing the number of people using inpatient services.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7336


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