Public inquiry call over North East mental health hospitals

Still from Panorama filming at Whorlton Hall
Image caption Undercover filming at Whorlton Hall appeared to show patients being mocked and restrained

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has called for a full public inquiry to uncover what is "repeatedly going wrong" in mental health facilities in the North East of England.

It follows a BBC Panorama documentary which appeared to show patients at Whorlton Hall being abused.

A worker at Darlington's Newbus Grange, which is also run by Cygnet Health Care, was also jailed for abuse.

The college said it had written to the secretary of state.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been reviewing six facilities run by Cygnet in the North East.

Newbus Grange was placed in special measures and patients are being moved out, while Whorlton Hall, near Darlington, has been closed.

'Horrified by documentary'

The health watchdog rated Chesterholme in Hexham as "inadequate", and Victoria House in Darlington and Oaklands in Hexham as "requires improvement".

Serious concerns were also raised about Appletree in County Durham, a facility for women with severe mental illness.

A spokesperson for Cygnet Health Care said: "The facilities that were the focus of the CQC reports in the North East are from a recently acquired portfolio and we are currently undertaking renovations, transforming care plans and adapting to local commissioning demands to make sure the services provided are in line with Cygnet's high standards of care."

Image caption Professor Wendy Burn described the situation as an "emergency"

Prof Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, described the situation as an "emergency".

"We were horrified by the Panorama documentary... now we learn that yet another hospital looking after this group of patients has been put into special measures by the CQC," she said.

"In view of the seriousness of this, we have written to the secretary of state urging him to commission a public inquiry led by a High Court judge.

"We must have a thorough understanding of what is repeatedly going wrong and what needs to be put in place to ensure that this vulnerable group of people, some of whom are detained under the Mental Health Act, receive the high standard of care that they deserve."

An NHS spokesperson said: "We have been quite clear that we expect all services to provide good quality and safe care and deliver on the commitments in their contracts, irrespective of whether it is led by the independent sector of NHS and we continue to work closely with the CQC to monitor, identify and take appropriate action wherever necessary."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Abuse of patients in care is abhorrent and we treat any allegations with the utmost seriousness. We cannot comment on the Whorlton Hall investigation while it is ongoing.

"The Health Secretary has already ordered the care of every patient in long term segregation to be reviewed and the CQC has commissioned an independent review to look at what it could have done differently or better in terms of its regulation and inspection of Whorlton Hall and other services of this kind."

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