Council criticised over abuse claims ‘will learn lessons’


A council criticised over allegations of abuse at a private hospital near Bristol appears to have admitted that it made mistakes in failing to follow-up concerns raised by a whistleblower.

Serious allegations of abuse by staff at Winterbourne View, a hospital for adults with learning difficulties, were contained in a BBC Panorama documentary broadcast last month.

But South Gloucestershire Council has so far been unable to explain why it appears to have taken little or no action to investigate the whistleblower’s concerns last October.

Much of the criticism for failing to investigate the claims has so far focused on the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which was told about them by the council last November.

But a meeting to discuss the allegations was not held by South Gloucestershire Safeguarding Adults Board – which is coordinated and chaired by the council – until 1 February this year.

It is unclear whether any action was taken after that meeting until the BBC told the council about its own investigation last month.

This week, the council admitted to Disability News Service that “there will be lessons to be learned” from the case.

A serious case review into the allegations will be chaired by the highly-respected consultant Margaret Flynn, joint editor of the Journal of Adult Protection.

A council spokeswoman said an interim report from Flynn’s review could be published as early as September.

In a statement, the council said it had been “approached by a manager at the hospital in October 2010 who reported the concerns of another member of staff in relation to poor care standards and inappropriate use of restraint on patients”.

“The council acted on the limited information it had at the time, by informing the CQC and requesting further details to be obtained from the member of staff.”

But the council spokeswoman said she was unable to provide further details to avoid compromising the serious case review and an ongoing police investigation into the allegations.

She said: “It’s not a question of hiding things but it is about following due process. We are taking this very seriously.”

But she did claim that the information passed to the council by the whistleblower’s manager was “very different” to that unearthed by the BBC.

She said: “It wasn’t the same kind of information at all, therefore you wouldn’t have expected the same kind of response.

“We completely accept that there will be lessons to be learned. At this time we have to leave it to the review to do that.”

16 June 2011