Solar Centre scandal: Care watchdog ignores concerns over cleared care worker


newslatestThe care watchdog has admitted failing to investigate whether a nursing assistant who was cleared of abusing disabled service-users should have been allowed to return to her job with an NHS trust.

Julie Burge was cleared of all three charges against her at a trial last year which saw two of her former colleagues jailed for ill-treating people with learning difficulties and high support needs at the Solar Centre day centre. Burge, now aged 50, had been accused of slapping three service-users.

But it has since emerged that the trust that employs Burge – Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) – has allowed her to continue working following a disciplinary process.

When Disability News Service questioned whether the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was comfortable with Burge continuing to work with the mental health trust, it suggested that the trust had taken the necessary steps to ensure it was safe for her to return to work.

A CQC spokesman said: “CQC has been assured by RDaSH that it has fully risk assessed her return to the trust and is satisfied that she poses no risk to people using services.”

He said the watchdog had been told by the trust “that the allegations against Julie Burge were found not to be proved” at a disciplinary hearing. It is not clear when this hearing took place.

But when asked whether CQC inspectors had talked to police or the Crown Prosecution Service to ask what evidence there had been against Burge, the spokesman said: “This would be a matter for RDaSH to follow up on as her employer.

“CQC would want to see that the trust had the internal process to risk assess her continued employment with them.”

RDaSH has admitted that Burge went through a disciplinary process and is still employed by the trust, but will not say whether she is working with patients, although she is no longer at the Solar Centre.

Roger Thompson, chair of Doncaster Safeguarding Adults Partnership Board (DSAPB), which commissioned a serious case review (SCR) into the scandal, which was published last month, said he did not know who Burge was.

He added: “I really cannot comment on employment issues for somebody employed by another body.”

The Solar Centre SCR, published last month, failed to mention Burge’s continued employment with the trust – one of the members of DSAPB – or the disciplinary process.

CQC has refused to comment on the quality of the SCR report, which ignored nearly all of the concerns highlighted by DNS since it began investigating the scandal in 2010.

An RDaSH report into the scandal, completed in 2008, suggested that 18 people with learning difficulties, high support needs and physical and sensory impairments were assaulted or otherwise abused at the Solar Centre.

John Pring’s expose of institutional abuse of people with learning difficulties at the Longcare residential homes, Longcare Survivors: The Biography of a Care Scandal, is available through the DNS website

21 August 2014