In early June the BBC Panorama programme showed a shocking film of the abuse dealt out to vulnerable patients at a hospital for learning disabilities. The hospital, Winterbourne View near Bristol, was run by Castlebeck, a private operator of this sort of facility.
Six weeks later the Care Quality Commission, which had failed miserably to respond to a whistleblower’s complaints about the standards of care at Winterbourne View, said it had “serious concerns” about four other facilities run by Castlebeck, and that a further seven were “failing to comply with essential standards of quality and safety”.
Last week Castlebeck announced it was closing another facility in Bristol with immediate effect. Rose Villa, a rehabilitation centre for adults with learning disabilities was being closed, said Castlebeck, for “operational reasons” which it said were unrelated to a Care Quality Commission inspection and the fact that four staff had been suspended. Again, a desperately vulnerable client group had suffered abuse in a Castlebeck facility.
Today Castlebeck has announced the closure of a third facility, Arden Vale in Meriden in the West Midlands after a closure notice was served by the Care Quality Commission. The CQC report into Arden Vale showed a dehumanising and humiliating series of petty regulations imposed by staff on patients and an over use of physical restraint.
Castlebeck made a £31.3m profit on £85.2m revenues in the year to December 2009. Vast sums of public money are being pumped into the pockets of some very wealthy individuals. Around £3,500 a week is paid by the NHS and local authorities for every patient ‘cared for’ in one of Castlebeck’s facilities.
This is an issue that isn’t making the front page of the tabloids like phone hacking or the rioting of last week, but it is an epic scandal which should be commanding the attention of Andrew Lansley’s every waking minute. Why isn’t Lansley screaming from the rooftops about this? If two dozy buggers who conspired to hold a riot that didn’t take place get four years in chokey for their stupidity, when can we expect to see the people responsible for this actual abuse (and I don’t just mean those who carried it out, but those who allowed it to take place by their omissions) up in front of a court to explain their negligence?
I won’t hold my breath.