Winterbourne View workers raised staff behaviour fears
Workers at a hospital near Bristol where alleged abuse was filmed had raised earlier concerns about staff behaviour, the BBC has learned.
South Gloucestershire Council said, in response to a Freedom of Information request, 19 concerns about Winterbourne View were raised in five years.
BBC Panorama secretly filmed patients being pinned down, slapped and taunted at the hospital, which has been closed.
The council said each of the 19 alerts would be independently reviewed.
A spokesman said 17 referrals had been made by managers and two by charge nurses, between the time the hospital opened in 2006 and 12 May 2011, when the authority learned of the Panorama programme.
He said 15 of the alerts concerned the behaviour of members of staff.
Andrew Hanham, a solicitor representing seven families who had relatives at Winterbourne View, said the amount of referrals was a "big number".
"We do know that there was some real trouble brewing underneath," he said.
One of the nurses to raise a concern was whistleblower Terry Bryan, who alerted the BBC with his concerns about some staff, which led to Panorama's investigation.
After the programme was broadcast on 31 May, Castlebeck, the firm which ran the hospital, apologised and launched an internal investigation.
Earlier this month, the Care Quality Commission published its findings after an inspection of Winterbourne View.
The report found Castlebeck Care had failed to ensure residents living at the unit were adequately protected from risk, including the risks of unsafe practices by its own staff.
It said: "There was a systemic failure to protect people or to investigate allegations of abuse.
"The provider had failed in its legal duty to notify the Care Quality Commission of serious incidents including injuries to patients or occasions when they had gone missing."
Inspectors also noted staff did not appear to understand the needs of the people in their care and said "some staff were too ready to use methods of restraint without considering alternatives".
Twelve people have been arrested and released on bail in connection with the alleged abuse, pending further inquiries.
Winterbourne View's 24 patients were transferred from the hospital when it was closed, in June.