Whorlton Hall abuse leaves leading nurse 'shocked, saddened and appalled'

RCN learning disability nursing forum chair condemns lack of action from government and NHS leaders after Winterbourne View scandal

RCN learning disability nursing forum chair condemns lack of action from government and NHS leaders after Winterbourne View scandal

Whorlton Hall
Whorlton Hall. Picture: BBC Panorama

The abuse scandal in learning disabilities care at a specialist hospital would not have occurred if the lessons of Winterbourne View had been heeded.

Royal College of Nursing learning disability nursing forum chair Simon Jones said the similarities between Winterbourne View and Whorlton Hall in County Durham, which featured in a BBC Panorama expose this week, were ‘indicative of the lack of progress’ over the past eight years.

The undercover filming shows patients being mocked, taunted, intimidated and repeatedly restrained.

The NHS-funded unit, run by the private firm Cygnet, has suspended 16 members of staff and a police investigation has been launched.

Ring-fenced funding

Mr Jones said learning disability nurses have been ‘advocating strongly’ for ring-fenced funding, better training and care being delivered closer to home for years.

Simon Jones

If the government and NHS leadership had listened and acted, Mr Jones believes, it would have meant ‘places like Whorlton Hall no longer existed’.

He now wants to see commissioning responsibilities handed to an independent national body with a focus on human rights, saying it is the only way to properly ‘protect’ people with learning disabilities and autism.

‘Like everyone who watched Panorama, I was shocked, appalled and saddened,’ he added.

In the film, staff can be seen swearing and emotionally abusing patients. In one scene, a member of staff refers to the 17-bed unit as the ‘house of mongs’.

Two male staff members single out a female patient for abuse. Aware that she is scared of men, they tell her, in an effort to keep her quiet, that her room will be inundated with men.

The programme’s reporter also witnessed incidents of physical restraint, one of which lasted ten minutes. Six care workers claimed they had deliberately hurt patients.

Human rights

Cygnet has apologised for the behaviour of its staff and said the unit had been closed and all patients transferred elsewhere. It said it only took control of running Whorlton Hall at the turn of the year.

Mr Jones said: ‘As a result of this programme we need a national human rights oversight group specifically commissioned to protect individuals with a learning disability or autism who display behaviours of concern.

‘This body would also be responsible for commissioning high-quality local services in partnership with patients and their families to ensure care staff are adequately trained and paid, and that these services are integrated into the local NHS community provision.’

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Watch BBC Panorama: Undercover Hospital Abust Scandal

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