Solar Centre abuse scandal: Health trust was ‘named and famed’


The health trust at the centre of allegations of abuse of disabled service-users was given an “excellent” rating by the healthcare regulator three years running, even though the watchdog knew about the allegations.

An investigation by Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH), which ended in September 2008, uncovered allegations of abuse of 18 people with learning difficulties, high support needs and physical and sensory impairments who used a day centre run by the trust.

The trust’s report on the investigation describes how staff at the Solar Centre in Doncaster allegedly hit service-users and used “inappropriate force”, as well as detailing other allegations of ill-treatment between 2005 and 2007.

The local newspaper that obtained the report said it contained 44 allegations of abuse, and that staff allegedly threatened and humiliated service-users, withheld food and drink and locked them in cupboards.

The trust said the “majority” of the allegations made against four members of staff were proven, although all four are said to have denied all the allegations.

But despite the Healthcare Commission being told about the allegations in 2007, the trust was given an “excellent” rating three years running, in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09.

And so impressed was the Care Quality Commission (QC) – which took over the regulatory duties of the Healthcare Commission in April 2009 – with the standard of care at RDaSH that it was “named and famed” as one of 44 high performing trusts last October.

A CQC spokeswoman said the rating had referred to standards across the whole trust.

She said: “The commission closely monitored the trust and was satisfied that it subsequently took appropriate action to review its systems and learn from these incidents.”

She said the Healthcare Commission’s annual ratings system had now been scrapped, and the RDaSH case “demonstrates the difficulties in giving one overarching rating for large, complex organisations that deliver a myriad of services”.

She added: “There are so many indicators and so many elements of care. That is why we have moved on from that. It is so difficult to sum up the whole trust in one word.”

She said the CQC’s new regulatory system was “a real-time continual assessment of performance, which allows us to act swiftly and stamp out bad practice where we find it”.

5 August 2010