Winterbourne View abuse whistleblower speaks out

Colin Groombridge
Image caption Colin Groombridge witnessed abuse at Winterbourne View and contacted the BBC

Almost a decade after abuse was exposed at Winterbourne View, a private hospital near Bristol, the original whistleblower has decided to speak out.

Colin Groombridge came forward after Panorama exposed the mistreatment of vulnerable people at another hospital - Whorlton Hall near Durham.

It used to be owned by the same company that ran Winterbourne View, which was taken over by another firm in the wake of the 2011 scandal.

A police investigation is taking place.

Mr Groombridge worked at Winterbourne View for several months in 2011, and contacted the BBC after witnessing people with learning disabilities being abused.

"One member of staff in a room full of service users thought it acceptable to pin someone to the floor and pull out pubic hair, for their own entertainment, and then celebrate that they did that in front of other people," he said.

"The member of staff thought it was funny, and joked, and he was proud."

After an undercover Panorama investigation, the abuse was exposed, leading to calls for fundamental changes in the care of vulnerable adults.

In December 2012, the government announced plans for a "dramatic reduction" in the number of people with learning disabilities being placed in hospitals.

But many specialist hospitals remain open, with patients far from their families.

Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Police are investigation allegations of abuse at Whorlton Hall

On Wednesday night Panorama revealed abusive behaviour at Whorlton Hall.

Mr Groombridge said when he heard the news, he felt betrayed.

"These service users are living there, trapped there. There is no escape, there is no freedom. Their lives are controlled by the people abusing them," he said.

"I never wanted to speak out the first time. It's something that I feel I have to do now. We wanted meaningful change - there hasn't been any."

Ann Earley's son Simon was abused at Winterbourne View.

She told Panorama: "It shouldn't still be happening. It was supposed to have been stopped, and our children were supposed to have been safe."

Last year Whorlton Hall was bought by Cygnet Health, which has suspended 16 permanent members of staff and said patients were being moved to other hospitals.

The firm said it was shocked and saddened by Panorama's allegations and had zero tolerance of unprofessional conduct towards patients.

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