‘PATIENTS TORTURED’ – at a charge of £3,500 a week

Marchers in London this month to defend the rights of disabled people, demanding ‘Don’t disable us – enable us!’
Marchers in London this month to defend the rights of disabled people, demanding ‘Don’t disable us – enable us!’

A STORM of anger has erupted following the broadcast of Tuesday night’s BBC Panorama programme, which revealed terrible abuse of vulnerable adults at a privately-run hospital.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN General Secretary, said yesterday: ‘The sickening abuse revealed in this programme is more shocking than anything we could have imagined.’

Unison Head of Health Christina McAnea added: ‘These patients have been betrayed by their carers, by the hospital owners, Castlebeck, and by the Care Quality Commission, who all failed to take action, despite repeated warnings about abuse.’

During five weeks spent filming undercover, Panorama reporter Joe Casey filmed vulnerable patients being repeatedly pinned down, slapped, dragged into showers while fully clothed, taunted and teased.

Yesterday the government’s so-called ‘watchdog’, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), issued an apology, after the programme revealed that it had ignored a senior nurse’s report of the abuse.

Winterbourne View in South Gloucestershire, which treats people with learning disabilities and autism, is owned by the privateer Castlebeck, which is responsible for the care of 580 patients in 56 different ‘facilities’ in Britain.

Winterbourne View is a privately owned, purpose-built, 24-bed facility which charges taxpayers an average of £3,500 per patient per week, while Castlebeck has an annual turnover of £90 million.

After seeing footage of an 18-year-old patient named Simone being verbally abused and doused with cold water while fully clothed as a punishment, Andrew McDonnell, a clinical psychologist who viewed the footage, told the programme: ‘This is not a jail . . . people are not here to be punished.

‘This is a therapeutic environment. Where’s the therapy in any of this? I would argue this is torture.’

The programme said it decided to film secretly after being approached by a former senior nurse at the hospital who was deeply concerned about the behaviour of some of the support workers caring for patients.

‘I have seen a lot over 35 years but this I have never seen anything like this. It is the worst I have seen,’ former nurse Terry Bryan told the programme.

Bryan reported his concerns to both management at Winterbourne View and to the CQC, but his complaint was not taken up.

In a statement, the Care Quality Commission said: ‘We apologise to those who have been let down by our failure to act more swiftly to address the appalling treatment that people at this hospital were subjected to.’

Following the programme, four employees of Winterbourne View were arrested.

The RCN’s Dr Carter stated: ‘The Employers of these people must also be held to account’.

He added: ‘It is apparent from the programme that there was a failure on the part of the CQC to act when Terry Bryan took it upon himself to bring forward his concerns.’