Tuesday’s BBC Panorama programme highlighted serious abuse and appalling standards of care at Winterbourne View, a private hospital for people with learning disabilities.
Following an internal review, we recognise that there were indications of problems at this hospital which should have led to us taking action sooner. We apologise to those who have been let down by our failure to act more swiftly to address the distressing treatment that people at this hospital were subjected to.
In response to the serious issues uncovered by Panorama, CQC has taken the following action:
- carried out three unannounced inspection visits of the hospital and taken steps to ensure the hospital will not admit any new patients. We are working with the primary care trusts and councils who pay for the care of people at the hospital to secure the best outcomes for those people
- started an immediate review of all services run by this provider
- launched a detailed internal review of our actions in relation to Winterbourne View
- spoken to the former member of the hospital staff, apologised for not contacting him earlier and offered to discuss his concerns.
- written to Care Services Minister Paul Burstow MP proposing that we launch a programme of risk-based and random unannounced inspections of a sample of the 150 hospitals providing care for people with learning disabilities. The Minister supports this proposal.
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said:
“People deserve to receive safe and effective care. That's what we expect from every care provider.
“I have confirmed with CQC that they should undertake a series of unannounced inspections of services for people with learning disabilities.
"These unannounced inspections into care for people with learning disabilities will help inform future policy and focus attention on the 7/24 care obligation all providers have."
CQC was contacted by a former member of staff on 6 December, having already been advised of whistleblowing concerns by the local authority at the end of November. These concerns had been passed to the local authority by the hospital’s manager.
As the safeguarding lead, the local authority had already set up a safeguarding meeting to look at these issues which, though concerning, were not as detailed or specific as the information revealed by Panorama. So CQC took the view that the concerns were being examined. For a variety of reasons, that safeguarding meeting did not take place until February.
However, we recognise that had we contacted the whistleblower ourselves directly after we received the email we would have been alerted to the seriousness of the situation and moved swiftly to inspect the hospital.
We have spoken to the former member staff, apologised for not contacting him earlier and offered to discuss his concerns. We regard information from whistleblowers as essential intelligence which is vital to the way we assess risk and monitor compliance with essential standards of quality and safety.
We have asked Panorama to provide us with detailed information about the hospital to help us in our continuing regulatory work. We have also suggested that in future we would welcome earlier involvement by the programme in cases such as this so that we can step in to protect people as early as possible.