'No excuse' for care service failures, says health minister

Winterbourne View may have closed but there are still concerns about the care of some of its former patients

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Health minister Norman Lamb has said there is "no excuse" for the further mistreatment of patients moved from failed care home Winterbourne View.

A BBC Panorama report on Monday is due to reveal new safety alerts have been issued for some former patients.

The Lib Dem minister said it would highlight the "unacceptable failures" still crippling care commissioning.

The report comes after six workers were jailed for ill treating and neglecting patients at the now closed hospital.

Another five former support workers were convicted at Bristol Crown Court for the ill-treatment of patients there.

'The right support'

Panorama is set to report that at least 19 of the 51 former Winterbourne View patients have been issued with safeguarding alerts since they were moved to other care homes - according to NHS figures.

The programme has also learned that at least one has been assaulted and one criminal inquiry is under way, although not all of the alerts mean that someone was harmed.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Lamb said: "The BBC Panorama programme to be broadcast tonight continues to highlight inappropriate and poor quality care. There is no excuse for this."

He said a Department of Health review had found "clear evidence that there are far too many people in specialist inpatient learning disability services - including assessment and treatment units - and many are staying there for too long".

Mr Lamb insisted vulnerable people would be able to avoid such facilities if "given the right support in their homes or in community settings".

He underlined the importance of vulnerable people being able to "benefit from local personalised services" and to be "supported to live in the community wherever possible".

Mr Lamb went on: "The key priorities are to address unacceptable failures of commissioning and to improve the capacity and capability of commissioning across health and care for people with behaviour which challenges with the aim of driving up the quality of care they receive, improving their lives and significantly reducing the number of people using inpatient services.

"This is best done through effective joint commissioning across health and social care and proper local planning."

'Dumping ground'
Simone Simone was the patient Panorama's undercover reporter saw abused most frequently, in early 2011.

Using an undercover reporter in the spring of 2011, Panorama secretly filmed support workers slapping patients, pinning them under chairs and giving them cold punishment showers at Winterbourne View.

Simone Blake, then just 18, faced some of the most disturbing abuse there, including being drenched in water and left shivering and shaking on the freezing ground outside.

Simone was moved to an NHS hospital - Postern House in Wiltshire - as soon as the abuse allegations were revealed.

Postern House was just 40 minutes' drive from Simone's parents, allowing them to visit her several times a week.

In June of this year her parents received a letter from Ridgeway Partnership, the health trust that runs Postern House, telling them she was the subject of a safeguarding alert and that four members of staff had been suspended.

Her mother, Lorna Blake, said: "We were not told what they had done wrong... even though this is not the same as Winterbourne View, she has still gone through a wrong - whether it is a wrong restraint or whatever, it is still wrong."

Ridgeway Partnership, which runs Postern House, accepts the family should have been told more about the investigation. Wiltshire council says it has no reason to doubt that Postern House provides good care. Both Wiltshire Council and Ridgeway Partnership say the incident can't be compared to Winterbourne View.

Panorama: Find out more

BBC Panorama logo
  • Alison Holt presents Panorama: The Hospital that Stopped Caring
  • BBC One, Monday, 29 October at 20:30 GMT

Simone has now been moved to another hospital 200 miles away; her fourth in two years. The eight-hour round trip is too long a journey for her parents to make.

"We can't see her and we used to visit three times a week... it's not very nice to not see your child," Mrs Blake said.

The chief executive of the learning disabilities charity Mencap, Mark Goldring, said cases like Simone's highlight a system that has resorted to warehousing difficult patients with challenging behaviour.

"What allowed Winterbourne View and places like it to flourish was that those places were effectively being used... as a dumping ground by public bodies who had not planned ahead."

And former care services minister Paul Burstow has said care service providers which fail their patients should be "corporately accountable" by law, along with their staff.

National guidance on people with learning disabilities calls for them to be cared for in their communities, but the Department of Health (DoH) has estimated in England 1,500 people with challenging behaviour are currently in hospitals.

In his statement, Mr Lamb announced that the government's final report of the Winterbourne View review would be published in the near future.

Panorama: The Hospital that Stopped Caring, BBC One, Monday 29 October at 20:30 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

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