Reports raise new safety concerns over institutions


New fears have been raised about the safety of people with learning difficulties, after the care watchdog published the first reports from a national programme of inspections.

The programme of surprise inspections of more than 100 NHS and independent hospitals that provide assessment and treatment services, and about 50 adult social care facilities, was launched in the wake of allegations of serious abuse at Winterbourne View, a private hospital near Bristol for people with learning difficulties.

The allegations were featured in a BBC Panorama documentary in May.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said that only one of the first five institutions inspected as part of its national programme – all of which were hospitals providing assessment services – was found to be complying with legal standards of safety and care quality.

It said that at two of the services, Kent House, run by Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and Townend Court in Hull, there were concerns about safeguarding people from abuse.

Humber NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Townend Court, had failed to respond appropriately to patients’ allegations of abuse.

CQC said the inspections completed so far suggested that “leadership and governance needs to be stronger to ensure that services are safe and meet essential standards”.

Dame Jo Williams, CQC’s chair, said: “Another recurring issue in the first inspections is a lack of person-centred care.

“It is especially important that services make sure that the care of people using these services, many of whom have extremely complex and individual needs, is tailored to their needs.”

A report on the entire inspection programme will be published in spring 2012. More than half of the 150 inspections have been completed.

CQC was heavily criticised for failing to respond to warnings of alleged abuse raised by a whistleblower at Winterbourne View.

But it has also been forced to defend the failure of its own inspectors to uncover evidence of abuse at the hospital, which has now closed.

The commission had already faced heavy criticism over its plans to reduce inspections of care facilities through a new “risk-based” system of regulation, which focused on poorer homes while leaving others to submit their own written self-assessments.

So far, 10 former staff members from Winterbourne View have been charged with ill-treatment and neglect under the Mental Health Act.

8 December 2011