News story

Responses to BBC Panorama programme

Last night, BBC Panorama aired a shocking documentary in which reporters went undercover inside a hospital for vulnerable adults.

The programme was incredibly difficult to watch and showed patients being mocked, taunted and intimidated by staff who were supposed to be caring for them.

People have been quick to criticise the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for failing to spot what was really going on at Whorlton Hall. The CQC has released a statement apologising for missing the signs.

Dr Paul Lelliott, Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals (lead for mental health), at the CQC, said, ‘When we last inspected Whorlton Hall in March 2018, we did so as a result of whistleblowing concerns. Our inspectors identified concerns around staffing; staff sometimes worked 24-hour shifts, agency staff were not receiving appropriate training, and not all staff were receiving individual supervision. We found the provider in breach of regulations and told them to address these issues.

‘It is clear now that we missed what was really going on at Whorlton Hall, and we are sorry. The patients we spoke to during this inspection told us they felt safe and had not experienced aggression towards them. We also spoke to health care professionals who had formal caring roles for patients at the hospital, but who were independent to the hospital; they did not raise any concerns. This illustrates how difficult it is to get under the skin of this type of ‘closed culture’ where people are placed for long periods of time in care settings far away from their communities, weakening their support networks and making it more difficult for their families to visit them and to spot problems. When you add staff who are deliberately concealing abusive behaviour, it has the potential to create a toxic environment.

‘We will urgently explore ways in which we can better assess the experience of care of people who may have impaired capacity, or even be fearful to talk about how they are being treated because of the way that staff have behaved towards them. We must do all we can to lift this cloak of secrecy. We will also be reviewing what we could have done differently or better that would have meant we were able to identify and stop this abuse more quickly.’

Today, Harriet Harman MP wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock urging that ‘the time for rhetoric has come to an end, it is time to act.’

Blogger and Mencap charity campaigns support officer Ciara Lawrence said the following about last night’s programme:

A joint statement by Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, Learning Disability England, Shared Lives Plus and Association of Mental Health Providers has set out how they think the Government must address the issues identified in the programme. They believe they must:

  • Make themselves accountable to people with learning disabilities, autism and mental ill health, and their families, by creating formal relationships with local user-led and carers organisations and advocacy services.
  • Ensure everyone using long-term NHS care can access a personal health budget and an independent advocate to help them find and use new forms of community support to help them get out of hospital.
  • Work with high quality voluntary and community sector providers to redesign care around the person with a clear expectation that everyone can live a good life in the community.


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