‘Institutional abuse’ At NHS Units

Up to 200 learning disability units will be inspected after the health watchdog found examples of “institutional abuse” in one NHS trust.

In a highly-critical report, the Healthcare Commission said poor training and low staff morale contributed to the neglect of people in the care of Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust (PCT).

It announced a review of independent and NHS centres across England in light of the report, which said the trust’s services were not fit for the 21st century.

It outlined “impoverished” and unsatisfactory living conditions, with some people staying in cramped rooms and only having access to three or four hours of activity a week.

Failures in management and leadership were apparent at all levels, from frontline managers up to the trust’s board, the report said.

Constant change within the trust, including seven chief executives in 10 years, created a lack of continuity.

The Healthcare Commission examined the quality and safety of care at Orchard Hill Hospital, community homes in Sutton and Merton, and at Osborne House in Hastings. The trust asked the Commission to investigate following allegations of abuse against people in its care.

One woman was first abused in 2004 by a member of staff who later pleaded guilty and was given a suspended sentence. The same woman was then abused again in 2005.

Last year, Peter John Clark, of Mitcham, south London, was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual activity with the woman, who was unable to give consent due to her low mental age. Scotland Yard confirmed that Clark, who was in his 50s and was a care worker, was sentenced at Kingston Crown Court last September.

Anna Walker, the Commission’s chief executive, said: “The standard of services at Sutton and Merton was simply not acceptable in the 21st century. The Trust was providing institutionalised care which sacrificed the needs of vulnerable individuals in favour of the needs of the service. It is simply not good enough.”