Poor care providers must face 'corporate law', says MP

Man on bed
Image caption Mr Burstow said there was no excuse for failing vulnerable people

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

The Lib Dem MP said there was "now a case for corporate wilful neglect" to be added to the UK's statute book.

His call comes as fresh fears are raised for the safety of patients moved from a failed Bristol care home.

Six workers have been jailed for ill treating and neglecting patients there.

The case has prompted criticism from experts, campaigners and families who argue private hospitals such as Winterbourne View are the wrong place to look after people with learning disabilities who display challenging behaviour.

'No excuses'

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Burstow said it was crucial that organisations at a local level were responsible for "commissioning the right kind of services" and making sure the best "model of care" was put in place.

But he said at Winterbourne View, for example, patients "paid £3,500 a week to be treated by people who in the end were thugs, and by a company that seemed to be more interested in not recruiting the right people in the first place."

Mr Burstow said it was up to the government to do more where companies were falling short.

He said: "What I'm clear about - and what I believe the government needs to do - is to institute a plan of closing these long-stay so-called assessment and treatment centres.

"And it also needs to make sure that the companies that take the money - if they fail, and in this case they more than failed, they really abused people - then they need to be held corporately accountable, as well as the staff who stood in the dock last week.

"We have corporate manslaughter on the statute book. I think there is now a case for corporate wilful neglect as well."

Mr Burstow said there should be "no excuses" for failing vulnerable people and commissioning the wrong sort of services.

Vulnerable adults warehoused

On Monday, it emerged safeguarding alerts have been issued for at least 19 of 51 former Winterbourne View patients there since they were transferred to other care homes, according to NHS figures.

At least one patient has been assaulted and one criminal inquiry is under way. However, not all of the alerts mean that someone was harmed.

An undercover report by BBC Panorama in the spring of 2011 revealed widespread abuse was being carried out by support workers at the private hospital - which has since closed.

Staff were secretly filmed slapping patients, pinning them under chairs and giving them cold punishment showers.

Campaigners have now approached Panorama again, expressing fears that vulnerable adults are effectively being warehoused in a system that is not offering them the support they need.

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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