Panorama-Eight Years On

In another ground-breaking expose Panorama have once again exposed the failings of the inpatient hospital care system, eight years after they first aired Winterbourne View. Meanwhile the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care goes absent without leave.

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On Wednesday 22/05/2019 BBC's Panorama and the journalist Olivia Davis broadcast "Undercover Hospital Abuse Scandal" another profoundly important work of investigative journalism into the experiences of people being detained at the inpatient hospital Whorlton Hall. The programme describes the experiences of undercover journalist Olivia Davis during her time working at this Cygnet Health Care run inpatient hospital.  

Cygnet Health Care is a subsidiary of the giant US behavioural health services provider Universal Health Services, which is listed as one of America's largest businesses. Last year UHS had a turnover of over 10bn and in the UK it's subsidiary Cygnet* provides inpatient services to 200 people registered as being part of the Assuring Transformation Dataset.

Panorama's investigation presents a disturbing picture of the quality of care provided at Whorlton Hall by this UHS subsidiary. Care that is characterised by episodes of abuse and psychological torture, with residents regularly being provoked into distressed behaviour. Which the staff could then respond to with often unnecessary levels of force and physical restraint.

Unsurprisingly the programme has led to a wave of condemnation. The MP Norman Lamb asked an emergency question of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in the House of Commons. Unfortunately the Secretary of State Matt Hancock was busy and the government response was led by a more junior Minister. A stark contrast to the government response to Winterbourne View which was led by the then Prime Minister David Cameron. For people with learning disabilities and for autistic people and for families the response has almost been as disturbing as the programme itself and had led to the following damning assessment of Hancock from the Mail on Sunday journalist Ian Birrell:

"Never mind the wrecked lives of distressed people seeking state support but ending up stuck in cruelty. Never mind their devastated families. They are merely pawns swept aside in Hancock’s pitch to become prime minister. Hancock has shown an abysmal lack of leadership on this national scandal. It exposes a politician who is a depressing example of all that is wrong with Westminster. "

You can still watch "Undercover Hospital Abuse Scandal" on the BBC website

Whorlton Hall Hospital