Panorama care home 'torture' exposé prompts arrests

Four people have been arrested as a result of last night’s Panorama on BBC1 which used undercover filming to reveal abuse at a Bristol care home for vulnerable adults with learning difficulties.

The hospital’s operator Castlebeck said it was “distressed” and “shocked” by the accusations that workers physically and verbally abused residents on a daily basis.

The secret recordings, filmed between February and March this year, appear to show carers punching and slapping vulnerable adults, dousing them in cold water, and pinning them to the ground with chairs.

Thirteen members of staff including two managers have been suspended and three men and one woman had been arrested by Avon and Somerset police, according to the BBC.

All patients have been moved to safety.

Clinical psychologist Andrew McDonnell said he was shocked by the footage and labelled some of the examples captured on film as “torture”.

He told the programme that basic techniques for dealing with patients with challenging behaviour were ignored.

After viewing one excerpt, he said: “This is not a jail…people are not here to be punished.

“This is a therapeutic environment. Where’s the therapy in any of this? I would argue this is torture.”

Company officials said they had not seen the footage ahead of last night’s programme, but were made aware about its contents on May 12.

“Castlebeck immediately notified the police, Care Quality Commission (CQC), the local Safeguarding team, commissioners of the service, other relevant authorities, and the families of the patients named in the allegations,” said a statement released by the firm.

“Staff alleged to have behaved inappropriately were suspended and reported to the police, who are now investigating.”

The company confirmed a former nurse had made a complaint about the quality of care to hospital managers in October last year.

However, it said its whistle-blowing policy was not followed correctly and due to “delays” in the process neither the chief executive or board members were made aware of it.

The former employee also contacted the CQC, which regulates the social care industry, but the complaint was not taken up.

Lee Reed, Castlebeck’s chief executive officer, said: “I was shocked, disgusted and ashamed by what I saw on Panorama.

“Having spent my entire career in health and social care, I intend to leave no stone unturned to ensure that this type of horrific event is never allowed to happen again.”

The company said it is now in “active consultation” with the appropriate authorities with regard to the future of privately-run Winterbourne View, which cares for up to 24 patients, employs around 50 members of staff and is funded by taxpayers.

It is also reviewing the records of all of their 580 patients and launched an internal investigation into its whistle-blower procedures.

An independent review of the company, that will focus in its culture, medical protocols and communications systems, has also been commissioned by directors.

A team from consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that will include a number of experience clinicians will conduct the review.

The statement released by Castlebeck added: “The company would like to reiterate its distress at the allegations, and to acknowledge that they are therefore significantly more distressing for the families of those involved.

“As the matter is now in the hands of the police, we are not able to disclose any more specific details about the allegations at this time and until the independent PwC review is completed and submitted, the company will make no further comment.”

Castlebeck was founded in 1987 and offers specialist healthcare and rehabilitation to vulnerable people, including men and women with autism, learning disabilities, behavioural and mental health problems.

It employs 2,100 people, providing care for 580 service users at 56 facilities nationwide.

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