Apology after NHS care workers filmed abusing autism patients

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Apology after NHS care workers filmed abusing autism patients

Health Minister Caroline Dinenage apologised on behalf of the NHS for the shocking treatment shown in the BBC Panorama documentary

Health Minister Caroline Dinenage apologised on behalf of the NHS for the shocking treatment shown in the BBC Panorama documentary (Picture: BBC/PA)

The Government has apologised on behalf of the NHS after a documentary uncovered staff abusing patients with learning disabilities at a care unit.

Care at Whorlton Hall, in County Durham, was branded ‘tantamount to psychological torture’ by Labour after a shocking BBC Panorama programme showed staff mocking, intimidating and repeatedly restraining patients.

Undercover reporter, Olivia Davies, recorded a staff member calling a patient a ‘fat c***’, another describing the hospital as ‘house of mongs’, and one care worker calling a patient’s family ‘f****** poison.

Six care workers told the reporter they have deliberately hurt patients, including one who boasted about ‘clotheslining’ someone – striking a person across the face with an extended arm.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Health Minister Caroline Dinenage, told MPs she ‘utterly condemned’ the treatment, saying: ‘On behalf of the health and care system, I am deeply sorry that this has happened.’

The distressing documentary showed workers insulting their patients

The distressing documentary showed workers insulting their patients (Picture: BBC/PA)

Many were seen repeatedly restraining patients

Many were seen repeatedly restraining patients (Picture: BBC/PA)

The Government will take action to look at whether there was criminality in the actions and whether the care system is working.

She said: ‘There are also a range of questions more broadly about whether these types of institutions and these type of inpatient settings are ever an appropriate place to keep the vulnerable for any extended length of time.’

‘Where it is essential that somebody has to be supported at distance from their home, we will make sure that those arrangements are supervised,’ she added.

An elderly man was stopped by police after driving towards oncoming traffic in his mobility scooter. Derbyshire police say the gentleman was riding on the A6 dual carriageway near Thulston when the alarm was raised yesterday afternoon. Caption: The elderly gentlemen was given advice by police after driving the wrong side of the A6.Elderly man drives wrong way down dual carriageway in mobility scooter

Durham Constabulary has launched an investigation and the 17-bed hospital has been closed, with 16 staff suspended and patients transferred.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) health watchdog has also apologised after rating the hospital ‘good’ following a 2017 inspection.

Cygnet, the company which runs the NHS-funded private facility, said it was ‘shocked and deeply saddened’ and is working with police.

The documentary was filmed from between December and February

The documentary was filmed from between December and February (Picture: BBC/PA)

Dinenage said she utterly condemned the treatment

Dinenage said she utterly condemned the treatment (Picture: PA)

During her time undercover from December to February, Ms Davies also witnessed several incidents of physical restraint, which should only be used to stop a patient harming themselves or others.

One showed a patient being restrained for nearly 10 minutes by a worker who offered out chewing gum to colleagues.

Another distressing scene showed two male staff members single out a female patient who is scared of men, by telling her, in an effort to keep her quiet, that her room will be shortly inundated with men.

The workers call this pressing the ‘man button’ and, within her earshot, use extremely explicit sexual language.

In another scene a male care worker threatens to ‘deck her’ if she tries to run at staff.

Professor of clinical psychology and disability Glynis Murphy called it the ‘antithesis of care’.

Patients were seen being taunted and intimidated by staff

Patients were seen being taunted and intimidated by staff (Picture: BBC/PA)

Whorlton Hall is now being investigated

Whorlton Hall is now being investigated (Picture: BBC/PA)

She told Panorama: ‘I think it is like psychological torture, because she is stuck there, she can’t get away.

‘It is a secure unit. And they are deliberately taunting her and deliberately upsetting her.’

In another incident a staff member antagonises a patient by removing a poster from his wall, telling him: ‘Get in there, punch me and see what happens. I’ll put you through the floor.’

Cygnet, which took control of the centre in January, said: ‘The safety and care of our patients and residents is of paramount importance and we have zero tolerance of unprofessional conduct towards them.

‘Those implicated in this programme have betrayed not only some of society’s most vulnerable people but also the thousands of people at Cygnet who work daily with dedication and compassion to look after the people in their care.’

BBC reporter Olivia Davies went undercover

BBC reporter Olivia Davies went undercover (Picture: PA)

Bosses and CQC officials have apologised

Bosses and CQC officials have apologised (Picture: BBC/PA)

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health at the CQC, said the abuse was ‘sickening’ and that urgent action was taken.

He said: ‘We are sorry that we did not identify the abusive practices at Whorlton Hall.’

A previous inspection in March 2018 highlighted some staff were working 24-hour shifts and there was inappropriate training and supervision.

Dan Scorer, head of policy and public affairs at the learning disability charity Mencap, said the new findings highlight a ‘domestic human rights scandal’.

He said: ‘The horrific scenes from this latest Panorama programme show that the health and social care system is continuing to fail people with a learning disability.’

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