Special Hospital to Close After Accusations of Abuse

{mosimage} A Hospital for people with learning disabilities, at the centre of an investigation into patient abuse, will close. The Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust, which runs Budock Hospital, near Falmouth, was criticised in a report for “widespread institutional abuse” of patients. The report, part of an inquiry by the Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), was published this month, describing years of abusive practices, “underlying problems that have never been addressed” and the failure of senior trust executives to face up to concerns.

It is understood that 14 people with learning disabilities at Budock Hospital will be relocated by December. The Cornwall Partnership Trust will also be handing over the care of nearly 170 people in 46 community homes. A spokesman for the trust confirmed that the hospital would close.

Several treatment centres and units for people with learning disabilities were investigated throughout 2005 after allegations of abuse first surfaced in October 2004.

Government inspectors found evidence of 64 incidents of abuse over the five years to last October, including staff hitting, pushing and dragging people in their care.

There were also reports of staff withholding food, forcing patients to take cold showers and relying too much on medication to control behaviour.

Staff also restrained people illegally. The investigation team found that one person spent 16 hours a day tied to their bed or wheelchair, with staff “wrongly believing” it was for the patient’s own protection.

The report also revealed that one person suffered multiple injuries over time, including a fractured skull.

During the investigation 40 people with learning disabilities were referred by a CSCI and the Healthcare Commission to Cornwall County Council under the procedure for the protection of vulnerable adults.

A few weeks after the East Cornwall branch of the charity Mencap first raised concerns, seven staff were suspended by the trust, five of whom have since been dismissed.

Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, has announced an audit of all services in England for people with learning disabilities who are in NHS or private-sector care.