Winterbourne View patients in new care safety alerts

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

Many patients who were poorly treated at a private hospital which closed down after a BBC Panorama investigation have had new fears raised over their safety.

Last week six former staff were jailed for ill treating and neglecting patients at Winterbourne View, Bristol.

NHS figures show safeguarding alerts have been issued for at least 19 of its 51 former patients since they were moved to other care homes.

The government said there was "no excuse" for their mistreatment.

Of the patients that have been issued with safeguarding alerts, at least one has been assaulted and one criminal inquiry is under way.

However, not all of the alerts mean that someone was harmed.

Campaigners told Panorama they feared vulnerable adults were being warehoused in a system that was not offering them the support they need.

Shivering and shaking

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.

Last week at Bristol Crown Court, 11 people were sentenced for the ill-treatment of patients at the hospital.

Six were jailed, including ringleader Wayne Rogers, 32, who admitted nine counts of ill-treating patients, and was jailed for two years.

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

Simone Blake, then just 18, faced some of the most disturbing abuse at Winterbourne View, 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.

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.

Research for the "Count me in" survey in 2010, which falls under the auspices of the Care Quality Commission, found that in England and Wales one in 20 patients with learning disabilities in hospital said they had been assaulted at least 10 times in the previous three months.

'Dumping ground'

In a statement, care and support minister Norman Lamb said the Panorama programme "continues to highlight inappropriate and poor quality care".

"There is no excuse for this," he said.

Mr Lamb said a review set up by the Department of Health "has found clear evidence that there are far too many people in specialist inpatient learning disability services... and many are staying there for too long".

He went on: "People often end up in these facilities due to crises which are preventable or could be managed if people are given the right support in their homes or in community settings."

Mr Lamb also underlined that a final report on Winterbourne View would be published "shortly", along with an agreement setting out the responsibilities of carers and the government.

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."

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.

Margaret Flynn examined what went wrong at Winterbourne View in the most exhaustive report, the Serious Case Review.

She said that needs to change: "If nothing else results from the scandal of Winterbourne View Hospital I very much hope that it is scrutiny of a practice that moves people around as though they are pawns. We can and should be doing something so much better."

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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