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New fears over vulnerable patients

Charity attacks ‘warehousing’ of people with learning difficulties

Mark Gould

Monday, 29 October 2012

Patients who were abused and neglected at a private hospital which closed down after a BBC investigation have had new fears raised over their safety.

Last week six support workers were jailed for abusing vulnerable patients at Winterbourne View, near Bristol after undercover reporters from Panorama secretly filmed support workers slapping patients, pinning them under chairs and giving them cold punishment showers.

NHS figures show safeguarding alerts have been issued for at least 19 of its 51 former patients since they were moved to other care homes. However the alerts do not necessarily mean a patient has been harmed as they could relate to potential problems or other safety issues. But they do indicate that at least one patient has been assaulted and one criminal inquiry is under way.

Simone Blake, was 18, when she was filmed being drenched in water and left shivering and shaking on the freezing ground outside Winterbourne View.

She was moved to an NHS hospital - Postern House in Wiltshire - as soon as the abuse allegations were revealed. But in June her parents received a letter from Ridgeway Partnership, the health trust that runs Postern House, telling them that she was the subject of a safeguarding alert and that four members of staff had been suspended.

Mark Goldring, the chief executive of mental health charity Mencap, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that too many vulnerable adults were being ‘warehoused’ in a system that was not offering them the support they need.

"What allowed Winterbourne View and places like it to flourish was that those places were effectively being used...as a dumping ground by public bodies who had not planned ahead."

Last week at Bristol Crown Court, 11 people were sentenced for the ill-treatment and neglect of patients at the hospital.

Six were jailed, including ringleader Wayne Rogers, 32, who admitted nine counts of ill-treating patients, and was jailed for two years.

Ridgeway Partnership, which runs Postern House, told the BBC that the family should have been told more about the investigation. And Wiltshire council says it has no reason to doubt that Postern House provides good care. Both Wiltshire Council and Ridgeway Partnership say the incident can't be compared to Winterbourne View.

National guidance on people with learning disabilities calls for them to be cared for in their communities, but the Department of Health (DoH) has estimated in England 1,500 people with challenging behaviour are currently in hospitals.

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