Abuse of the Vulnerable

BBC Panorama: Undercover Abuse Scandal Wednesday 22 May at 9pm on BBC One – available on iPlayer

I make no apologies, I am going to “off on one”!!

This is a well known problem. 6 members of staff were jailed in 2011 for abuse at Winterbourne View near Bristol. Ministers at the time PLEDGED to stop this abuse!

And yet, 8 years on, here we still are! This is despite a CQC inspection in 2017 which rated it as “Good” – in other words it had “ticked the boxes”! When I was involved with CQC inspections, patients were questioned about the levels and perceived standard of care. In a culture of bullying, this obviously shows serious shortcomings.

This from a former employee at Whorlton Hall, the establishment in question –

“Staff are very intimidating and full of jealously, if your face doesn’t fit they don’t like it. Report you for anything (more like been in school, teachers pets) the staff are very competitive. If one person doesn’t like you then none of them do and all have something to say about one another. Very uncomfortable place to work.”

This from another member of staff –

“Do not work for this company. They do not care about staff or patient safety. I got seriously attacked on a night shift, was left with many injuries, blood soaked shirt, I should’ve gone to hospital but I wasn’t allowed to leave the premises due to not enough staff.”

“As a new starter I quite often was left to run a home alone on a night shift with no training.”

Staff are on £16,000 per year, which equates to minimum wage. Staff have complained about understaffing and lack of training and yet Cygnet Healthcare owned by a US parent company earned £40.4 million pounds last year a 33% increase on the previous year.

It is obvious these vulnerable individuals are just seen as a “cash cow” to this US giant, who only care about the bottom line in the accounts. They neither care for staff or patients and as long as there is the inevitable box ticking to keep the regulatory authorities happy, the abuse continues.

I would love to know how this all came to light. Apparently Panorama sent an undercover reporter in January to secretly film what was going on. Therefore someone was obviously concerned well before this and why didn’t they report it to the appropriate authorities?

Safeguarding policies and procedures should have been in place, in which case why weren’t they followed?

Whistleblowing policy and procures should have been in place, again why weren’t these followed?

So, why was it “Trial by Media” that eventually made a difference. And if all this was filmed in January and February, what happened in March and April and the first half of May. Why weren’t whistles blown in January???

As I am currently involved in bullying, I can assure you it is not an easy call to make. Previous experience in dentistry 20 years ago showed me as a whistleblower that you run the risk of being ignored, accused of fabrication, exaggeration and then eventually lying, so you end up with “egg all over your face” for doing what you thought was right!

“We can’t rock the boat”

We have whistle blowing policies and procedures as part of our governance. I have personal experience of whistle blowing so know what it takes. But when the whistle is blown, the action should be taken! Not waiting until you have a film ready to screen and suitable screen time in your “busy schedule”. In my opinion, the BBC are almost as guilty of collusion – and this won’t be the first time I have had a run in with the BBC!


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