Rich investors with a stake in care home abuse hospital

The residential hospital where vulnerable patients were bullied and abused by their carers is owned by a secretive Swiss private equity company backed two of Ireland’s richest businessmen.

Winterbourne View, near Bristol, is one of more than 50 similar homes owned by Lydian Capital Partnership, a Geneva-based investment fund backed by a consortium of investors including JP McManus, the billionaire businessman and racehorse owner, and John Magnier, the racehorse breeder.

The fund’s involvement reflects the increasingly profitable nature of providing social care. Lydian Capital Partnership bought Castlebeck Care, a Doncaster-based company which owns the residential hospitals, for £255 million in 2006. The NHS and local authorities pay Castlebeck an average of £3,500 a week to care for each patient. Since Lydian Capital Partnership bought the company its annual turnover has risen by 80% to £55 million a year.

A source close to Lydian Capital said: “This is a consortium of investors, they are very much hands off. They are very rich and remote people who invest in a range of things and Castlebeck happens to be one of those. It’s investment strategy is to buy companies and then sell them off for a profit.”

The huge profits being made from social care have angered families who say their relatives are being mistreated or given sub-standard support.

Last month a jury recorded an open verdict into the death of Derek Lovegrove, a blind and partially deaf 38-year-old who stopped breathing after being restrained in another care home owned by Castlebeck in 2006.

The coroner subsequently wrote to Cedar Vale hospital near Nottingham raising concerns about the standard of care. Linda Daley, Mr Lovegrove’s mother, believes the physical restraint contributed to the death of her son.

Mr Lovegrove, who was blind and partially deaf, suffered from severe communication problems. During his 11 month stay at the hospital he was restrained by staff 28 times.

Mrs Daley said: “Derek was a loving, happy boy, he had a naughty side but he was very good natured. I didn’t want Derek to go to the hospital but I was powerless to prevent it. Physical restraint is ultimately a form of abuse. All these companies are thinking about is money. I would love to sack the whole lot of them.”

The use of force by staff was highlighted repeatedly by Terry Bryan, a former nurse at the residential hospital near Bristol at the centre of the scandal, in an email to his manager.

The email, which was sent six months before Panorama went undercover in the hospital, refers to his concerns about the “Castlebeck Way” – the aggressive approach staff take to restraining patients.

He wrote: “When service users start to bang their head on the wall or office door, I have heard certain established staff members say “here we go” and remain where they are. They wait for the incident to develop, ready to routinely manage the situation by restraining the person. I rarely see any established members get up and talk to the person at such times.

“When restraints occur, I see scant regard for the person’s feelings whilst they are being held. Recently, SG was being restrained and established staff members were discussing holiday plans over him whilst it was happening. They stopped when I told them to but there is little or no regard for people’s feelings in these moments of high anxiety – and definitely no empathy.

“I suppose I currently feel I am fighting a losing battle, as it is fundamentally Castlebeck Company I really have an issue with and these poor practices are bi-products [sic] of that system.”

According to Mr Bryan, he was told by one of his trainers that if he had problems with particular patients he was to “kick them in the bollocks”.

Mr Bryan said: “I’ve always worked with challenging people with complex behaviour and this is the first time I have ever seen anything this blunt. Human rights were being violated every day but everyone thought what they were doing was OK. I went to work there and started saying you can’t do this. They called me a ‘do-gooder’.”

In a statement, Castlebeck care described the behaviour of staff at its Bristol care home as “completely unacceptable and appalling”. The company has commissioned consultants to review its procedures.

A source close to Lydian Capital Partnership said: “JP McManus and John Magniers were shocked and have been active since then in instigating a root and branch examination of every aspect of Castlebeck.”