Police are considering reopening an investigation into abuse of people with learning difficulties at an NHS day centre, after a report detailing the abuse was leaked to the press.
The report 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 there were 44 allegations of abuse, and that staff had allegedly threatened and humiliated service-users, withheld food and drink and locked them in cupboards.
Following concerns raised by other members of staff in early 2007, South Yorkshire police investigated allegations that staff were physically assaulting service-users, but failed to produce enough evidence to press any charges.
Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) then carried out its own investigation, which ended in September 2008.
Its subsequent report described incidents involving 18 service-users with learning difficulties, high support needs and physical and sensory impairments.
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 the trust failed to pass copies of its report to families of those allegedly abused until January this year, at the end of lengthy disciplinary procedures.
And RDaSH admitted this week that it also failed to pass a copy of its report to the police.
Ian Jerams, the trust’s chief operating officer, said: “The police had already concluded their enquiries and much of the trust’s report was based on the police investigation.
“The trust is of the view that there is no additional evidence from its internal investigation not already known to the police.
“We are however liaising with the police over any future action they may wish to pursue.”
It is also unclear what action was taken against the four members of staff following the disciplinary process.
Jerams said: “Two no longer work for the trust and a third did not return to work at the Solar Centre or in any of the trust’s community learning disability services.
“A fourth person involved was employed by another trust and worked at the Solar Centre under a service level agreement.”
He added: “The trust has expressed sincere regret and has apologised to the service users and their families for failing to protect the day centre users from the actions of the staff members concerned.”
Detective chief inspector Matt Fenwick, of South Yorkshire police, said in a statement: “I have requested a copy of the report that came out in January.
“This will be reviewed and if additional evidence is present, or further allegations have been highlighted, then consideration will be given to reopening this investigation.”
29 July 2010