Less than half of hospitals and care homes for people with learning disabilities meet national standards


Three out of five hospitals and care homes for people with learning disabilities do not meet national standards for safety and quality, according to a series of unannounced inspections.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) today published its latest batch of inspection reports which examine whether people in NHS and privately-run homes are being safely and appropriately cared for, and protected from abuses.

The results showed just four out of 20 providers met both essential standards for welfare and safeguarding. Of 67 inspection reports published so far (including 20 today); just 17 providers were compliant with both standards.

The CQC issued a formal warning to Walkern Lodge, a small women-only hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, run by the private firm Cambian Learning Disabilities Limited after inspectors found "major concerns" about the use of restraint, bullying and safeguarding. Two staff were suspended after the investigation.

The CQC inspectors also expressed “major concerns” over safeguarding at another hospital, Bloomfield Court, and 5, 6 Ivy Mews in London, run by private firm Curo Care Limited. There were also moderate concerns about care and welfare at this hospital which looks after people with learning disabilities who also have mental health problems.

The findings were last night described as “extremely worrying” by leading disability charities who called for a move away from institutional care. The reports are the latest of 150 unannounced inspections by the CQC in light of the Winterbourne View scandal exposed by a whistleblower and undercover journalists in May 2011. Three former carers from the Castlebeck-run hospital last month pleaded guilty to the ill treatment of vulnerable residents.

At Walkern Lodge, inspectors found staff regularly restrained people with learning disabilities but proper logs were not kept and managers denied it happened. This included one seated restraint where a patient had been held down on the ground in the garden for seven minutes. Incidents relating to "missing money, a disclosure of alleged abuse, a potential incident of physical abuse and self harm had not been adequately dealt with.

Cambian Learning Disabilities Limited, which runs 29 learning disability facilities including seven hospitals with 120 patients, said: “We have been working collaboratively with the CQC, and have developed a clear action plan to address these concerns, together with training from the local safeguarding team. We have made immediate changes to staff, training and administration reporting systems.”

The CQC said it was satisfied that "necessary improvements" had since been made.

Of the Curo Care hospital the inspectors said: "Staff did not understand their roles in safeguarding vulnerable patients and the provider had not made an appropriate referral to the local authority safeguarding team when a patient sustained an injury to determine its cause.

"This means that patients were not always protected from abuse, or the risk of abuse," said the CQC. They also found staff were not equipped to communicate with some patients, who complained of being bored and isolated.

Richard McKenzie of Bloomfield Court said: “A CQC inspection in October 2011 identified areas for improvement, and immediate action was taken to address them appropriately. An action plan was agreed with the CQC and has been implemented.”