Social care sector urges Government to order regulator to downgrade quality rating of inpatient units following Whorlton Hall abuse scandal
Over 40 social care sector charities call on the Joint Committee on Human Rights to question the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in parliament about the regulation of private hospitals (assessment and treatment units).
In an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matthew Hancock MP, charities including the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), Disability Rights and Sense demand the Government penalises inpatient units that fail to discharge people after a year. This call to action follows the BBC’s Panorama programme detailing the long-term abuse of patients with autism and learning disabilities at Whorlton Hall in County Durham.
The signatories are calling on the government to instruct regulator, the Care Quality Commission, to give a ‘requires improvement’ rating to any secure unit where people have been living for more than 12 months. They state that the rating should be downgraded to ‘inadequate’ if anyone has been living there for 24 months, and all new admissions halted until the rating has improved. The organisations behind the open letter believe this will discourage new admissions and prompt earlier discharge.
Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive, says these units are designed to be short-stay places where people receive support but instead, as the letter states, they subject people to “protracted periods of containment and isolation”.
The letter goes on to explain that action is urgently needed because there is no government policy that prevents the creation of more secure institutions:
“Inpatient units pose a significant threat to people’s safety and risk breaching their human rights. Countless reviews and broadcast exposes, such as BBC’s Panorama on Winterbourne View and Whorlton Hall, have made this very clear. In spite of this, public service commissioners continue to place individuals in these settings, ostensibly for short-term assessment and treatment. The reality is that people are deprived of their liberty in what are effectively long-term institutions.”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive, says:
“This is an unacceptable situation. Since the Winterbourne View abuse eight years ago, a raft of reviews and reports have outlined why we need to shut inpatient units and move people to real homes in proper communities. Due to a lack of investment for housing and support in the community by a succession of Government’s who have not prioritised people staying in homes in their local areas, people are still being placed in these units and their experiences are horrific, as the appalling practices at Whorlton Hall show. With every day that passes without firm action from government and the regulator, we are denying people the right to live in proper communities near family and friends.”
Notes for editors
The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) co-ordinated this voluntary sector response.
VODG represents organisations within the voluntary sector whose work is focused on enabling disabled people of all ages to live the lives they choose. VODG believes that an ambitious, trusted and vibrant voluntary sector that works together plays a unique role in achieving this aim.
A 2018 report by VODG outlines the challenges and solutions to moving people with learning disabilities, autism and/or mental health conditions out of long-stay inpatient care. The report underlines the importance of a joined-up strategic approach and for community-based support to be much more widely used and developed in the place of long-stay inpatient facilities. See www.vodg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-VODG-Transforming-care-the-challenges-and-the-solutions.pdf
Direct link to the letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care: