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Lawyers Call For Urgent Reform Of Care System To Protect Patients

Latest Investigations Show ‘Lessons Have Not Been Learnt’


Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell are calling for urgent reform of the UK’s care system after a fresh investigation into the Winterbourne View scandal victims found they are still not being given the basic care and support they are entitled to, meaning lessons have not been learnt.

The call comes after new NHS figures show 19 out of the 51 former Winterbourne patients have had safeguarding alerts issued since they were moved to other care homes and at least one patient has been assaulted and one criminal inquiry is under way.

Last week at Bristol Crown Court, 11 people were sentenced for the ill-treatment and neglect of patients at the hospital after a BBC Panorama investigation in 2011 secretly filmed support workers slapping patients, pinning them under chairs and giving them cold punishment showers at the Gloucestershire care home.

But a new Panorama investigation into the welfare of the patients has found one victim has been moved over 200 miles away from her family so they can no longer visit her.

This follows research for the "Count me in" survey in 2010, which falls under the auspices of the Care Quality Commission, which found that in England and Wales one in 20 patients with learning disabilities in hospital said they had been assaulted at least 10 times in the previous three months.

Now, Julie Lewis, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, says the care industry needs urgent reform to protect vulnerable patients from being subjected to further degrading abuse.

She said: “Like the rest of the country, we were shocked and appalled by the Winterbourne View scandal and we hoped it would be a wake-up call to the industry that more needs to be done to protect vulnerable patients from degrading abuse.

“Sadly, it seems this was not the case and the latest news that patients are still not being given the support and care they need is hugely disappointing.

“National guidance on people with learning disabilities calls for them to be cared for in their communities, but the Department of Health has estimated in England 1,500 people with challenging behaviour are currently in hospitals and this is not acceptable for them or their families.

“The Government needs to abolish long-term care homes where severely ill residents are dumped for long periods of time far away from their loved ones. This way of caring for patients does not provide them with the best quality of life which should surely be the top priority for all care homes.

“Until this radical reform takes place that proves lessons have been learnt, the care system in the UK for those with behavioural problems will continue to be a concern for all those who rely on it. There is no excuse for this and the government needs to implement better systems before the public’s faith will be restored.”