Hunt calls for safeguarding review in wake of Savile abuse
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for regulators and trust leaders to review safeguarding procedures after an investigation revealed that “weak systems” in hospitals had allowed celebrity Jimmy Savile to abuse scores of patients over many years.
Twenty-eight hospitals have today published reports into any involvement Savile had with their organisations. Two bigger investigations were carried out at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and Broadmoor Hospital, where abuse was found to be widespread.
“These reports paint a terrible picture, as time and again victims were ignored”
The investigation teams for Broadmoor and Leeds heard 71 peoples’ accounts of being abused by Savile. Of these, 19 were under the age of 16 at the time, and three people reported being raped.
Staff as well as patients reported abuse, and many of the incidents took place in public areas such as wards and corridors.
Sue Proctor, chair of the Leeds independent investigation, said: “Leaders in every NHS hospital trust should read this report, and in particular the accounts from the victims.
“They should consider if such events could happen in their organisation, and what controls they have in place to assure themselves that patients, visitors and staff in their organisation are protected from harm.”
At Broadmoor, Savile had keys to the hospital and was given a non-executive position on the trust board in 1987.
When a hospital taskforce was set up he was given a “direct managerial role”.
He used his influence to ensure that his friend, Alan Franey, was given the job of general manager even though he was “relatively inexperienced for such a challenging post”, according to the report.
Savile was also a volunteer porter at Leeds General Infirmary where he sometimes attended consultant ward rounds, helped with the delivery of intimate care such as bed baths and regularly visited the mortuary.
He often arrived on wards unannounced and gained access in the daytime and at night.
The investigation report into Leeds said that Savile had a close relationship with the head porter and “significant” relationships with some consultants.
He had a “unique level of access to the infirmary for a period of 50 years”, it added.
In three of the victims accounts there was “evidence that Savile’s ability to abuse was assisted or facilitated by other people”, and the victims believed them to be hospital employees.
Nine people told staff members about their abuse - six were patients and three were staff.
The report said: “Concerns about Savile were not escalated to the board of governors, or more latterly the chief executives of the trust boards.”
It also found that “the lack of curiosity about Savile from those at the top of the organisation appears to have been symptomatic of a broader disconnect between senior managers and the rest of the organisation”.
The Broadmoor report said that its investigators found “no reliable evidence” that any staff or patient complaints about Savile at the time were reported to senior staff or investigated.
“Both staff and patients believed that Savile was in a position of power and authority and could make their lives much worse, and the institutional culture of Broadmoor at the time strongly discouraged both groups from reporting,” the report said.
“We conclude that the institutional culture in Broadmoor was previously inappropriately tolerant of staff-patient sexual relationships and could be hostile to anyone who tried to report one.”
One female staff member reported being sexually abused by Savile in the central hall of Broadmoor while staff and patients were walking past.
A statement from Mr Hunt said: “These reports paint a terrible picture, as time and again victims were ignored, or if they were not, little or no action was taken.
“The systems in place to protect people were either too weak or were ignored. People and institutions turned a blind eye.
“Today, changes to the way that we guard against abuse would make it much harder for someone like Savile to perpetrate these crimes for so long.
“Savile was, however, never convicted of any offence – so this safeguarding system depends on much better awareness, and a much heightened vigilance against such abuse by professionals and the public than there was in the past.
“So, today I am writing to all the system leaders in the NHS – NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority, Monitor and the [Care Quality Commission] – to ask them to ensure they, and all trusts, review safeguarding arrangements in light of the reports and ensure they are confident about patient safety.
“For its part, the Department of Health has accepted all the specific recommendations assigned to it in the Broadmoor report.”
The chief executive of Leeds, Julian Hartley, said: “I want to take this opportunity to emphasise to our patients, their families and members of the public that the way hospitals in Leeds operate today is very different from the accounts included in the report, with a much greater focus now on security, safeguarding and raising concerns.
“The board at Leeds Teaching Hospitals [Trust] is committed to learning from the findings of this report and ensuring we have the highest standards of safeguarding and security in place.”
Chief executive of West London Mental Health Trust, Steve Shrubb, said Broadmoor was a “very different place than it was in Jimmy Savile’s time”.
“The investigation confirms that since the hospital became part of West London Mental Health Trust in 2001, it significantly improved its culture and management, security, policies and procedures so as to minimise the risk of this kind of abuse now and in the future.
“However, the trust is not complacent and we are undertaking a further audit of our systems and governance to assure ourselves, our patients and the public that all our services are safe, high quality and fit for purpose.”