It must be impossible to have watched the Panorama programme last evening without feelings of disgust, revulsion, horror and utter disbelief. The torture inflicted by so-called support workers on adults with learning disabilities was reminiscent of a horror movie.
It’s available here if you missed it, and if you feel strong enough to watch it. It certainly comes with a warning
Joe Casey, the investigative journalist working undercover as a support worker at Winterbourne View, shot footage on his hidden camera that is almost impossible to describe. His article in today’s Daily Mail puts into words the scenes transmitted.
Winterbourne View is described as a hospital, run by Castlebeck, a company I’ve never heard of before. Joe Casey uses the words ‘state-of-the-art’ hospital – I’ve developed an allergy to such descriptions now, because it was a ‘state-of-the-art flagship’ care home that was responsible for the neglect and death of my own relative.
According to Castlebeck’s website, Winterbourne View ‘is a purpose designed acute service, offering assessment and intervention and support for people with learning disabilities, complex needs and challenging behaviour’.
It is the staff at Winterbourne View who are in need of immediate assessment and intervention because of their own acutely challenging behaviour. Now that some of them have been arrested and placed under police investigation they will hopefully receive a full assessment of their own needs for care, long-term care, with fully trained supervision, support and care. Their mental health needs should have been addressed beforehand, by Castlebeck who employed them as ‘fit for purpose’. I hope that not one of them will ever be allowed to work in the world of care again, once they have been dealt with in an appropriate fashion by our system of justice. They are thugs – not support workers. They don’t know the meaning of the words ‘support’ or ‘care’.
The management – if there is any – cannot plead innocence and ignorance of the situation. Local and senior management must have known what was going on, but they ignored the whistle blown by a former senior nurse, Terry Bryan. He tried to get them all to act – but they all failed to listen to his whistle.
As did the Care Quality Commission. The horse has always bolted before the CQC gets anywhere near the door. The CQC does not respond to complaints brought to it by us, mere human beings. The CQC merely hands those concerns down to the very service that is at the centre of the concerns. The CQC needs to establish a unit that deals in depth with each and every concern brought to it – and not just as another paper-exercise, which appears to be the only thing that the CQC currently has the ability to handle. It only takes the CQC to ignore one single concern, like this one highlighted to the CQC long ago by a Senior Nurse, and you can end up with a torture setting being allowed to flourish. That’s nothing to do with care – it’s all to do with neglect. I accuse the CQC of neglect in the case of Winterbourne View. To mention just one establishment that the CQC has neglected.
What is the point of a regulator if a regulator is incapable of regulating?
This was institutional abuse. Abuse that was seen to be happening and so should have been prevented.
There are other kinds of institutional abuse that can never be seen until it’s too late, but they too can result in the destruction of life. But the very systems within any care setting – that that the CQC and local authorities are meant to ensure are in place – can be absent and impossible for the person in need of care and/or their relatives to identify as being absent. That’s what a regulator is supposed to be doing. Ensuring that every single system is in place to protect those people who are at risk.
The Castlebeck website claims to be proud of its staff training. Castlebeck has a very strong training and development programme. Staff are encouraged to improve their performance and the performance of others.
The company has appeared in the top half of the Nursing Times Top 100 Employers survey for the last three yeas.
Shame on them all, and heaven help those in the bottom half of the NT’s list.
Unless and until there is widespread recognition that the care system needs a thorough overhaul, nothing will change. I’m sick and tired of hearing apologies, and “this will never happen again”. It does. It continues to happen. Day by day by day – somewhere in the UK. Oh yes, I have no doubt that there are good hospitals, good care homes, good care workers out there, but there are also too many shabby, sub-standard operations that are allowed to abuse people.
Alongside a radical shift in attitudes, the language of care also needs to change – I hold the CQC and its predecessor the CSCI responsible for the fact that the language of care is enabling abuse.
CQC statement: “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.”
CQC has “spoken to the former member of the hospital staff, apologised for not contacting him earlier and offered to discuss his concerns.”
CQC says “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.”
Why would the CQC listen to Panorama any more than the CQC listens to people who bring concerns to the CQC? Panorama is not the regulator. The CQC doesn’t care enough to listen to those who are in the frontline and that includes staff blowing whistles, residents or patients complaining, and relatives of those in care who are concerned. But Panorama has the power to name and shame those who pretend to care.
‘National Minimum Standards’ – ‘Essential Standards’ – ‘Regulatory body’ – all meaningless words.
How about a new standard: Guaranteed Quality Standard without which no care home will be allowed to operate, without which no manager will be allowed to manage, without which no nurse or support worker will be allowed to work.
Where are the Required Standards? Required standards of training for all support workers before being let loose to work in care? Required standards of supervision of all staff? Required standards of regulation? Required standards of career progression for all care workers? Required standards of respect for all care workers who provide good standards of care?
One of our esteemed (not always) MPs – was it Iain Duncan Smith? – suggested that unemployed people in receipt of benefits should be forced to work in the community in places like care homes. Well, my message back would be that you show no respect for the world of care, no respect for staff who might be good support workers if given support themselves, and no respect for the people in need of care. Because you could end up with utter chaos – but, I am presuming that all the staff working at Winterbourne View were carefully selected, CRB checked, trained and supervised, especially the most senior thug of them all.
And all this on the day that Southern Cross is in desperate trouble, with the begging bowl out now, all because Southern Cross failed to get its priorities right. It failed to remember that it’s there to provide care. If Lansley and Burstow and our Demolition Government don’t care enough to care, they should be ashamed of themslves.
How about begging for guaranteeed standards of decent care for those in need of care? But we shouldn’t need to beg for that, should we. It should be a basic provision made available by a civilised country. If we really care.