Panorama – Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed

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 trainingCastlebeck 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.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Panorama – Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed

  1. Thank you for this.

    Coincidentally it arrived as I was conducting a one hour phone interview with a senior LGO investigator over my Mother’s case.

    I got the sense that certain aspects are sinking in at professional oversight level, if perhaps only because of grotesque exposures stirring up the public.

    Or good folk not not being resigned to doing nothing.

    I also made the point that my fear was the excesses would see the more mundane abuses… which can happen at highly funded care homes as much as those struggling through cuts if the oversight systems are failing… gaining the lion’s share of attention and allow an ‘acceptable level’ become tolerated.

    I was assured it would not.

    We shall have to see… and hope. For the best.

  2. careintheuk

    You’ve expressed my own fear – that acceptable levels of neglect and abuse have already been tolerated for far too long, and that with all the cuts, serious issues will be disguised ‘in the name of cuts’. You only have to look at Southern Cross today – how often does any report mention the serious lack of care provided in some Southern Cross homes for far too long? And Care UK is now crowing about its own achievement statistics in the Financial Times 30.05.2011. (Can’t provide a link as you need to register to read, but it’s worth doing so and worth reading the FT articles.) “Human cost forgotten in race to invest” says it all!
    As you know from your own efforts, it takes such an unbelievably long time (years in my case) to work your way through each and every level of ‘formal complaint’ system, before the next level will even consider getting involved.
    The CQC is a waste of space, as far as I can tell. Great at producing reports – but useless at producing meaningful reports, with stuffing! And useless at following up on ‘expressed concens’.

    I hope you haven’t got the same LGO Senior Investigator that I had, who managed to ask questions that bore absolutely no connection to my original complaint/concerns/carefully submitted documentation. So the end result was an ‘apology’ but no meaningful investigation. LGO is another waste of space, IMO, but I go back to the time before the LGO became involved in care issues, but was only involved in Local Authority cock-ups.

    Good luck – and don’t give up the fight to improve standards.

  3. I’m giving this guy the benefit of the doubt.

    He was fully on top of his brief, and had read everything… which was/is A LOT.

    One thing I learned from my ad days was document everything, keep records and even contact report calls. Hence I have chapter and verse.

    Of course, I share your cynicism still to be holding off until I get what I think is needed: action.

    I have already had to fight off a few pleads and demands ‘to close the file’ after a senior exec has been wheeled out to appear contrite, and am not budging any more. I owe Mum’s memory that much.

    Actually one aspect often poorly addressed is the degree of expertise next of kin seem to be expected to possess going into the rapids of care regime decision-making, much less holding one’s own against what can often be some very closed ranks seeking to make stuff ‘go away’.

    he has even opened a new complaint on his own initiative, having in the interview ascertained social service shortfalls that i had simply put down to my own ignorance. As he said, when it comes to care, it should not be up to the hapless relatives to know or find out critical information; the system should be geared to proactively help them make decisions. And it need not always be about money.

    It seems pretty clear that 30 mins experienced sharing as I thrashed about desperately trying to find the most suitable home before Mum got booted from hospital, could have spared her, me and ‘the system’ a ton of expense and grief down the line.

    That’s not cuts or training-related… simply good practice. But I fear common sense is in low supply across the boxtickocracies that exist across our fair isle.

    And thank YOU for not giving up, and for this forum to share.

  4. Pingback: Panorama BBC Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed « Vicky Haigh: requesting her daughter to return

  5. Pingback: Shocking video of horrific abuse of disabled children in care centre in Britain | iToD Daily

  6. I wish to draw your attention to another area of social care that is failing the elderly namely the misuse of the Mental Capacity Act (2005), the subjective nature of the Mental Capacity Assessment Test, the whole area relating to Best Interest Decisions and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards as applied by social workers and care homes.

    My 92 year old father was taken into respite care by Social Services in November 2010 and was subsequently sent home with the wrong medications. In December 2010 he was placed
    in respite care and was subsequently admitted to hospital with a fractured hip within a few days of entering the care home. On being discharged from hospital in February 2011 he was returned to the same care home following a mental capacity assessment that deemed him to lack capacity to determine where he wished to live. He has remained in the care home ever since and has been placed on a Deprivation of Liberty Order and I have been prevented from having access
    to him due to an ongoing protection of vulnerable adults investigation.

    I wish to point out the following:

    Social Services Department has offered no evidence to substantiate claims that I have been abusive towards my father choosing to ignore my requests for names, times and proof to support their allegations. I have never been invited to any meetings to discuss the allegations nor was I informed that allegations had been made.

    I was questioned by the police in relation to prior allegations but was not charged. There is no information on the Police National Computer that supports the allegations. My father was not removed by the police from his home and nor was I requested to leave the home.

    My father has not pressed charges and has vigorously defended me against all allegations made by Social Services Department.

    No written report has been presented to show that a mental capacity test has been carried out on my father and that he lacks capacity. Social Services Department claims are inconsistent in that they state that at various times my father has capacity and at other times he has not. It is the view of myself, my father, my solicitor and my fathers solicitor that my father is not lacking in mental capacity to determine where he wishes to live.

    The care home manager has done everything in her power to prevent me freely speaking with my father and her staff have been verbally abusive towards my father. She has also attempted to prevent my solicitor talking freely with my father and can offer no proof that my father is being given any medication.

    I have requested a copy of my fathers pre-admission needs assessment, his care plan and other documentation related to his case so far those requests have been refused.

    An IMCA was put in place against my fathers wishes and no attempt was made to contact his solicitor who would be the most suitable person to act independently on his behalf. 

    My rights and my fathers rights under the Human Rights Act have been denied plus Social Services Department are in breach of the guide lines related to Mental Capacity tests. The Social Services Department have failed to inform my father of the costs of being in a care home. The front door of the care home is kept locked at all times, his mail has been intercepted, his conversations are monitored and the care home staff have complete control over my fathers movements, these are clear violations of my fathers human rights.

    Both the care home and Social Services Department have refused to comply with requests made by my father and myself (nominated by my father to access his records including medical records) and my solicitor under the Data Protection Act.

    The Social Services Department have ignored requests from myself that my father be returned home with a care package and I am still denied access to see him. They have also refused a request that my solicitor should be allowed to see him.

    I have been told by various lawyers that my story is a common one and that social services departments around the country act ‘above the law’. It is also widely documented that social service departments are targeting elderly people who they believe have private funds and placing them into care in order to subsidise those on state benefits.

    These stories go unreported perhaps because the elderly do not make such a good story as ‘Baby P’ never the less they are being let down by a badly constructed Act and by local authorities who appear to use the law to act in their ‘best interest’ rather than the interests of those they claim to be helping.

    For further information on this case http://whosebestinterest.blogspot.com/

  7. Pingback: CQC and Castlebeck and whitewash | Care in the UK

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