Scandal of abuse at Irish tycoons' care homes

Inspectors left 'appalled' by substandard conditions

Nina Lakhani
Friday 29 July 2011 00:00

Hundreds of people with learning disabilities and mental-health problems have been subjected to inhumane and substandard care in hospitals and care homes owned by Castlebeck, the firm at the centre of the Winterbourne View abuse scandal that was exposed in May.

Evidence of residents being routinely locked in their bedrooms, taunted by staff members and restrained for no good reason was uncovered by Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors who visited 23 institutions owned by the company.

Several face closure after inspectors found half were failing to meet legally binding standards designed to keep vulnerable people safe from abuse and neglect. Only seven received a clean bill of health.

Castlebeck is owned by the Swiss private-equity company Lydian Capital Partners (LCP), which charges around £3,500 a week to care for each resident. The investment fund, backed by two of Ireland's richest businessmen, JP McManus and John Magnier, has overseen an 80 per cent rise in the annual turnover since buying the company in 2006.

Paul Burstow, Minister for Social Care, has told local authorities and NHS trusts to start searching for alternative accommodation for residents after "serious concerns" were identified in four Castlebeck homes.

Mr Burstow told The Independent he was "alarmed by the failures", which raised major concerns not just about the company, but about the regulator, and health and social services that were happy to leave vulnerable adults for years in such institutions. The CQC revealed systemic failings across the company's homes, including widespread use of untrained staff and the failure to inform authorities about incidents of possible abuse or injury. At some homes carers regularly worked 12-hour shifts without a break, without carrying out rudimentary checks on possible criminality. Many vulnerable residents are given no say in their lives.

The manager of Rose Villa in Bristol has been suspended and it has been closed to new patients. There was no evidence of criminal abuses like those exposed at Winterbourne View, said the CQC.

The Nursing Midwifery and General Medical Councils last night said they would investigate nurses and doctors who had failed to blow the whistle on substandard care. The CQC will inspect another 150 similar institutions providing long- term care for people with learning disabilities.

Mr Burstow said: "To find significant failures in half of the facilities is entirely unacceptable. The company needs to take a long hard look at itself to see how such a culture was allowed to develop. I am on the side of the relatives and victims of abuse in this situation. I want answers from the professional regulators and the CQC."

Lee Reed, Castlebeck's chief executive, said: "[We] acknowledge that some [of our services] have not met the high standards we would expect to achieve, or which the people in our care rightfully deserve. We are committed to addressing all of these shortcomings as a matter of urgency."

Denis Brosnan, founder of LCP, said: "PricewaterhouseCooper has been commissioned to do a full review of all the company's services. We were shocked and appalled at what happened and determined that this will never happen again."

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