Panorama – Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed

Anybody who didn’t watch Panorama tonight should go and do so on the BBC iPlayer. It’s available here.

The programme investigated and exposed serious physical and psychological abuse by carers (including at least one trained nurse) of vulnerable adults with various forms of learning disability. The abuse took place within a private residential hospital in Bristol owned by Castlebeck, a specialist healthcare provider which “…employs 2,100 people, providing care for 580 service users at 56 locations nationwide,” according to Castlebeck’s own statement to Panorama.

A former senior nurse who worked in the Unit reported the abuse to managers, but his concerns were ignored. He then reported his concerns to the Care Quality Commission, which is the regulatory body responsible for monitoring and assessing care provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies and voluntary organisations. As such, the CQC is the body responsible for regulating the Care Homes in which many of our parents are accommodated. The nurse contacted the CQC three times, using the word ‘abuse’, but they too ignored his concerns. When challenged about this by a Panorama reporter, Ian Biggs, a Regional Director of the CQC, described their failure to act as a “misjudgement”, and expressed regret.

This is a subject very close to my heart because my elderly father, who suffers from vascular dementia, has been a resident in a number of private EMI (i.e. elderly mentally infirm) care homes, as well as several hospitals, since early 2009. My sister and I have been very concerned on more than one occasion about the quality of ‘care’ that he has experienced, and our attempts to raise serious concerns about an incident which took place when he was a patient on an NHS hospital ward last year met with what felt to us like opposition and avoidance from the bodies we approached.

I believe that we should all be very concerned indeed about the behaviour that Panorama has exposed tonight, and in particular the fact that it was allowed to continue unchecked, despite having been raised by a qualified nurse at the highest level, until it was secretly recorded and therefore could no longer be ignored or denied. How on earth can a failure to investigate reports of abuse by a qualified nurse who had worked in the hospital be explained away as a “misjudgement” by the CQC? How on earth could the CQC ever have ‘judged’ it appropriate not to look into such reports? I have no idea, but I find their failure to act quite terrifying, and I hope the issue will be pursued with them. This failure to act three times appears to me to go well beyond some sort of simple administrative oversight or mistake.

My father is part of the ‘care’ ‘system’ as I write this, and if you’re reading it then possibly your parent is too, or will be soon. In all likelihood, many of us will end up there ourselves within the not so very distant future. I feel quite sure that what was exposed tonight is simply the tip of an iceberg. I sincerely hope that something is going to be done about it now. An independent judicial investigation into the Care Quality Commission’s failure to act appears to me to be the first necessary step.

10 Responses to Panorama – Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed

  1. alan.sloman says:

    That sounds utterly sickening, Shirl.

    People just don’t make enough fuss about shockingly bad care – but even when they do they are ignored or fobbed off.

    It’s time for this to stop.
    What can be done?

    • peewiglet says:

      Those of us with parents, relatives or friends accommodated in care homes, hospitals or other such places need to be vigilant, and to have the courage to raise and pursue issues when they arise.

      The government needs to commission an independent judicial enquiry into the CQC’s failure to act on the three reports of serious abuse that it received from a nurse who had observed it first hand.

      Sadly, it should not come as a surprise to any of us that this kind of abuse can and does take place. History has amply demonstrated that inadequate people will take advantage of opportunities to bully and mistreat the vulnerable. What should be treated as truly shocking, IMO, is that the government appointed regulatory body charged with the responsibility for attempting to eliminate abuse of the vulnerable within the care system has failed to act upon reports from the most reliable of sources. That needs to be dealt with as a matter of real urgency. To me it is utterly inexplicable, and an explanation must be sought. To call it a “misjudgement” is not to provide an explanation. What needs to be explained is why the CQC could ever have ‘judged’ it appropriate not to pursue the report: even once, let alone three times.

  2. Robin says:

    Shocking. Residential care shouldn’t be a business in the traditional sense of the word. While better regulation is part of the answer, a change in attitude of the providers is also necessary. Will we see heads roll at Castlebeck? Don’t hold your breath.

    • peewiglet says:

      Yes, it truly is shocking.

      Funnily enough, I see the failure of the regulator as being the major problem here. The failure of Castlebeck and its staff is horrendous, but unfortunately it is to be expected in (what I would hope would be) a minority of cases. Sadly, that’s part of human nature.

      What is not to be expected, IMO, is that the regulator should entirely fail to act when the problem was drawn repeatedly to its attention. The regulator exists to protect us, and has no obvious motivation for failing to do so. I think we need to find out why they chose to ignore the complaints in this case. It would be a coincidence of significant proportions if the only occasion upon which they have failed to act on substantial complaints happens to be the one reported here. What about the others?

  3. Robin says:

    I’m afraid it’s typical of the poor level of regulation and oversight that plagues this country. To not act after being contacted by a whistleblower three times is unforgiveable.

  4. Dawn says:

    Believe it or not, though these things continue, there is a long history of abuse in all forms of institutions. At one time institutions where a law unto themselves. These days people are more aware; abuse can only be hidden for so long. Yes, I am sickened by this program, unfortunately I was unable to watch it. There are too many bad memories for me. Having said that, I would encourage folks to watch it and maybe learn something from it.

    • peewiglet says:

      Hello Dawn ♥

      I do believe it: sadly, it’s clearly one of the more unattractive aspects of human nature for some inadequate people to seek to bully and take advantage of others. I understand why you don’t want to watch it ♥

      I hope all is well with you. I hope to move house soon, and if I do then perhaps you could come up and stay for a few days? We could do some walking 🙂

  5. Dawn says:

    Hi Shirl, hope your house move goes ok. It would be great to visit for a few days. Things have been very erratic on the walking front recently. However, I am slowly easing back in to walking mode. Thursday next sees me heading for the Howgills.

  6. says:

    i am a mental health support worker and is disgusted at the lack of care and investigation shown in this matter and is appullad these people called themselfs carers it a disgrace it happened let alone got that far

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