Last week brought yet more bad news for those in the caring professions.
Following the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reports on hospitals failing to meet older patients’ essential needs, the regulator found itself in the spotlight in the Panorama programme aired on Tuesday 31 May. The CQC was forced to admit that its failure to act on a whistleblower’s reports of abuse at Winterbourne View residential hospital had prolonged the suffering of its vulnerable residents.
Senior nurse Terry Bryan tried to tell Winterbourne bosses and the CQC about the appalling abuse he saw dished out by healthcare support workers to residents with learning disabilities. These included restraint - or rather physical assaults, bullying and administration of drugs by force. And worse. The exposé showed healthcare support workers showering a patient fully clothed, pouring mouthwash over her so it went into her eyes, beating her and forcing her outside in temperatures barely above zero then throwing cold water over her.
Two charge nurses witnessed some of the abuse that bordered on torture. Those nurses ignored it. Thank goodness Mr Bryan had the courage to put his career on the line and tell the BBC.
The programme proves that the BBC has achieved what the CQC couldn’t - investigating and exposing weaknesses in the system. As a result, there have been four arrests, staff suspensions and Castlebeck, the hospital’s operator, has set up a whistleblower hotline, is reviewing its 56 facilities and patient records. The CQC has also responded quickly, and is inspecting this provider, and is to carry out a series of unannounced visits to the 150 hospitals caring for people with learning disabilities.
Winterbourne proves the need for whistleblowing. But why don’t more nurses feel able to raise concerns? Fear of retribution? A cultural no-no? Those are hard to contend with, but not as hard as standing idly by. Nurses are responsible for safeguarding adults against abuse - and should act to stop it. Always.