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Rapid response to:


Whorlton Hall: Advisers quit government review in protest at CQC’s handling of abuse scandal

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 21 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4368

Rapid Response:

Re: Whorlton Hall: the downward spiral to hell

Sadly, Anthony Harwood's report [1] does not surprise me at all: supporting complex autism cases well and appropriately takes immense amounts of time, space and - above all - empathy. Ian Birrell wrote in the Mail on Sunday last October [2]:

"Ministers have failed to meet pledges made after the 2011 Winterbourne View care abuse scandal to empty assessment and treatment units (ATUs) of people with learning disabilities by returning them to families and communities;

"Latest figures show that 2,375 people with learning disabilities are still stuck in these supposedly short-stay units;

"One man has been held an astonishing 18 years. His elderly parents say the experience has been a nightmare and that their son is very depressed, crying when their weekly visits end;

"The number of children in ATUs doubled over the past three years – yet powerless parents are routinely gagged by courts and some have been threatened with having homes seized if they speak out;"

"The NHS spends up to £13,000 a week per person kept in ATUs..."

It remains a question how we are going to humanely cope as a nation as the autism rate heads beyond 3% in our schools, without Matthew Hancock's Department of Health and Social Care apparently showing the remotest curiosity about why this is happening [3]. Apart from anything else if the correct resources are not made available in the first place you are likely to end up with even more costly and unsuitable answers.

[1] Anthony Harwood, 'Whorlton Hall: Advisers quit government review in protest at CQC’s handling of abuse scandal',
BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 21 June 2019)

[2] Ian Birrell, 'Scandal of the autistic youngsters locked in solitary confinement: Hundreds of children are being held in appalling conditions and routinely abused in secluded padded cells', Mail on Sunday, 27 Ocober 2018,

[3] John Stone, 'Science, Facts and Jonathan Kennedy's Sociology of Medical Dissent', 20 May 2019,

Competing interests: No competing interests

23 June 2019
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22