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Winterbourne View Scandal 'Could Happen Again' Says Mencap And Campaigners

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WINTERBOURNE VIEW
Another care home scandal like Winterbourne View could happen again unless the government takes action, campaigners warned today. | PA

Another care home scandal like Winterbourne View could happen again unless the government takes action, campaigners warned today.

Charities called for the closure of large institutions caring for people with mental disabilities and said they should be looked after near their own homes.

The call came as a serious case review was to be published into the abuse of vulnerable patients at the private hospital in Hambrook, south Gloucestershire.

Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation warned that moving people hundreds of miles away from their families risked another care home scandal.

The two charities said a report they had compiled, Out of Sight, detailed a series of serious cases of abuse and neglect of people with a learning disability in institutional care.

They said they had received 260 reports from families concerning abuse and neglect in institutional care since the BBC Panorama programme uncovering the Winterbourne View scandal aired in June last year.

Mencap's Chief Executive Mark Goldring said: "We fear that unless the government commits to a strong action plan to close large institutions and develop appropriate local services for people with a learning disability, there is a very real risk that another Winterbourne View will come to light."

On Monday Michael Ezenagu, 29, became the eleventh member of staff at Winterbourne View to admit offences relating to the ill-treatment of patients. They will all be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court at a later date.

Today's joint report details a number of serious incidences reported by families, including physical assault, sexual abuse and the overuse of restraint.

It also explores the plight of families to have their loved ones moved closer to home.

There are currently hundreds of people with a learning disability in assessment and treatment units like Winterbourne View and other similar institutions, the charities said.

Many of these are located hundreds of miles from home, where people are at particular risk of neglect and abuse, Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation said.

While units were developed to provide short-stay specialist treatment plans for people with a learning disability who have experienced a crisis, in reality many stay a lot longer.

The report called on the Government to close all large assessment and treatment centres and ensure that smaller units are integrated with local services.

It also said that local services should be developed in order that no vulnerable person is sent far away from home.

The report also called for the Government to ensure that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has the power to only register services that are in line with the policy recommendations in the Mansell reports and is also able to take action to deregister or enforce their recommendations.

Vivien Cooper, founder of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said: "Many hundreds of people with a learning disability are being sent away to care institutions hundreds of miles from home, where they remain for years unnecessarily, at risk of neglect and abuse.

"Our report details the deep concerns that families have for their safety and welfare."

The scandal at the now closed hospital was not the first time this type of abuse had been uncovered.

In 2006 an investigation into homes run by the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust revealed "widespread institutional abuse" and described years of abusive practices and the failure of senior trust executives to face up to concerns.

Last year lawyers acting for 165 people with learning disabilities, who claimed to have been physically, emotionally and verbally abused, won nearly £6.5 million in a settlement of a High Court damages claim.

In the past year the CQC has uncovered a number of cases of mistreatment.

In January, it issued a formal warning to Walkern Lodge women's hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, after inspectors said they had "major concerns" over the use of restraint on patients.

They also found staff displaying bullying behaviour and no logs of incidents such as patients' money going missing. Two staff were suspended during the investigation.

The CQC also discovered that some people's length of stay in units ranged from six weeks to 17 years.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We are clear that wherever possible people should be supported to live in their own homes within their local community.

"In a small number of cases people might need access to good quality assessment and treatment services which might include some short periods of in-patient care.

"However this is not a substitute for high quality care within the community. It is vital all services are commissioned properly, reviewed regularly and not used as a long-term solution."

She described the abuse at Winterbourne View as "appalling" and added: "The inhumanity and suffering inflicted on such vulnerable people is unforgivable.

"Care providers, NHS and social care, care staff and managers all have vital roles to play in driving up standards of care.

"We have already set out a range of national actions which will mean that people have access to high quality care. These actions will make sure those who provide care, commission care and care staff know exactly what part they must play and what standards are expected of them."

The Department of Health's final report on Winterbourne View will be published later this year.