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Inspection of services for people with learning difficulties show they do not meet essential standards

CQC unannounced inspections following Winterbourne View scandal reveal serious problem in care provision for learning disabled

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8 December 2011

Following the scandal of abusive behaviour towards adults with learning difficulties that was revealed by Panorama in an undercover investigation the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has taken some belated action to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society by carrying out a number of unannounced inspections of hospitals and care homes that care for people with learning disabilities.

The CQC has reported that four of the first five services have failed to meet essential standards of care and safety.  Problems identified by the inspections found that complaints of ill-treatment were sometimes not followed up; that physical restraint techniques were in some cases used too much; that people being treated on a voluntary basis were frequently locked in; and that opportunities for activities were often limited.  For example, a number of problems Townend Court an NHS facility in Hull run by the Humber Foundation Trust included:
  • Patients’ dignity, privacy and independence were not protected by some practices in place at the service. Patients were not offered the option to have a bedroom key to protect their privacy and dignity.
  • We found that the provider did not have suitable arrangements in place for obtaining and acting in accordance with the consent of patients.
  • The environment in the Ridings unit did not offer comfortable accommodation and it did not adequately promote patients wellbeing or their dignity.
  • The processes in place to review and monitor safeguarding incidents and learn from them were not effective.
  • Some records, which the provider is required to keep, to protect patients’ safety and wellbeing, were not adequately detailed, completed or maintained. This placed patients at risk of receiving inappropriate or unsafe care, treatment and support.

Another NHS unit, Kent House in Oxton on the Wirral, run by the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership foundation trust, also prompted "major" concern.

Alison Millar, a partner in the leading human rights department at Leigh Day, has represented a number of clients whose learning disabled relatives have suffered abuse, neglect or poor standards of care.

She said of today’s reports:

"It is very concerning that the problems exposed at Winterbourne View, although extreme, are not unique and that four of the first five services that have subsequently been inspected by the CQC have failed to meet essential standards - in two cases with major failures.  We also have to ask, would these failings even have been detected had the CQC's system of inspection not been under heightened scrutiny as a result of the abuse at Winterbourne View and other scandals?" 
To speak to one of our abuse claims solicitors please contact Alison Millar,  to speak to a member of the team phone on 020 76501241.

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