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Whorlton Hall: Four guilty of ill-treating hospital patients

Four carers have been found guilty of ill-treating patients at a secure hospital, following a BBC Panorama investigation.

Nine former staff at Whorlton Hall, near Barnard Castle, County Durham, had faced a total of 27 charges. Five of those on trial have been cleared.

Jurors heard vulnerable patients were mocked and treated with "contempt".

Lawyers for the defendants argued their clients had been doing their best in very challenging circumstances.

The men found guilty have been bailed and will be sentenced at Teesside Crown Court in July.

Speaking after the verdicts, Christopher Atkinson, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said the four men had a "duty of care for patients who, due to significant mental health issues, were wholly dependent on their support every day of their lives".

He said it was "clear" there were times when the care provided was "not only devoid of the appropriate respect and kindness required but also crossed the line into criminal offending".

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Source: BBC News, 27 April 2023

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Sadly Whorlton Hall is another indicator of how little has changed in terms of patient safety for individuals who are autistic or those with learning disabilities. In fact, one could argue that the abuse and neglect has worsened in it's cruelty. These type of criminal acts should be considered more atrocious now in the 21st Century than when the News of The World first dragged them into the light in August,1967 when it exposed cruelty at Ely Hospital.

Then and now it takes the media to uncover these crimes. In considering the Howe Report (into 'ill treatment' at Ely Hospital) the Lords on 27th March 1969 called for an inspection body to be established for such hospitals. We now have CQC and Ofsted. Both, however have proved powerless to find abuse and prevent it recurring. In the case of Fullerton House (Ofsted rated it 'good'), it was the BBC that aired over 100 concerns.


It is thanks to Sky News that St Andrew's Healthcare Services remain in the patient safety spotlight. The CQC's Paul Lelliott told Parliament:

“Your central premise that there have been long-standing concerns about the use of restrictive practices at St Andrew’s is true. My recollection is that we go in there and inspect. After we pick up on issues, things get better. Then either they slip back or there are problems in another part of this big organisation” (2019)

Reading the findings of Geoffrey Howe's report into Ely Hospital in the 60's it's saddening to see the similarities between then and now. I would argue though that what was considered then as 'rough and old fashioned treatment' was a crime. It was a crime then and is a crime today. A serious one and should be prosecuted as such.


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