Whorlton Hall Hospital: 10 arrested over abuse in the specialist intuition

BBC’s Panorama footage has prompted investigations into standards of care at a specialist hospital in County Durham.

Following months of undercover filming at Whorlton Hall Hospital, a private hospital owned and managed by Cygnet Health Care, has now closed.

Residents at the care hospital, many of whom were detained under the Mental Capacity Act, were found to be taunted, bullied, threatened, verbally abused and subjected to what is described as “psychological torture”, by Professor Murphy – a leading authority on and professor of clinical psychology and disability.

Secretly filmed footage also revealed several instances of forced physical restraint which should only be used as a last resort to protect individuals harming themselves or others.

Professor Andrew McDonnell, an expert in autism at Birmingham City University, described the acts of abuse as “cruel punishment”.

16 people have been suspended and a police investigation has been launched by Durham Constabulary. The investigation into the abuse is described as being in its “early stages” and “is expected to take some time” to complete.

So far, 7 members of hospital staff have been arrested and are being questioned on charges of abuse and neglect.

The site is said to have had over 100 visits from official agencies in the year before the abuse was revealed. Services for people with learning disabilities are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC has since apologised for rating the standard of the hospital as “good” following a report in 2017.

It was revealed that multiple visits by the CQCs local authority safeguarding teams as well as other NHS agencies had not identified any concerns.

Mr Stanley-Wilkinson who led an inspection of the hospital in 2015 has says he noticed a "very poor culture". He raised his concern over the “poor culture” in a report he wrote, 4 years prior to the Panorama investigation.

He said it was the only report he wrote in nearly a decade of working at the CQC which was not published. The CQC later said the published report went through a "rigorous peer review process", making no reference to the concerns noted over the hospital.

The Panorama findings come eight years after abuse was uncovered at another hospital for people with learning disabilities, Winterbourne View, near Bristol.

After the airing of that programme, David Cameron, Prime Minister at the time, promised the mistreatment of patients would not occur again.

Winterbourne View was subsequently shut down and the government committed to closing other specialist hospitals too, maintaining instead that care should be provided from within the communities in which patients live.

Verisona Law has specialist experience in dealing with abuse within residential home settings, including abuse of vulnerable teenagers/adults with conditions such as autism.

If you, or a loved one, have been affected by physical, psychological or emotional abuse, please do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced clinical negligence lawyers who will be happy to speak to you about whether it may be possible to pursue a claim.


Lisa has specialised in childhood abuse and social care negligence for the last 8 years and has extensive experience in relation to civil abuse litigation, CICA claim maximisation and Redress Scheme claims. She offers a sympathetic and professional approach to her clients’ problems and advises on funding options (including insurance and Conditional Fee Agreements.)

Since 2018 she has travelled around the country to see clients who were failed by Lambeth Council during their childhood in order to collate evidence for submission to the Lambeth Children’s Home Compensation Scheme. Lisa’s style of working is tailored to providing emotional support whilst applying the specialist legal expertise required to ensure her client’s have the best evidence for making a successful claim.

Lisa is able to access key psychiatric and social care experts to obtain evidence and therapy recommendations for clients. She can direct clients to treatment providers if required. Often such treatment costs can be claimed as part of the compensation process. This is a priority to ensure her clients have the best opportunity to make positive steps into the future. Lisa excels in applying questions to psychiatric experts to clarify and ensure they have a deeper understanding of the case issues where required. She is also experienced in negotiation to maximise outcome according to specific scheme terms.

For the last year and half, Lisa has been leading the firm’s participation in the National Abuse Inquiry specifically relating to the IICSA Lambeth investigation acting on behalf of 6 core participants. Such work involved the preparation of core participant applications, section 40 funding applications, detailed consideration of social care record evidence, witness statements preparation, attending preliminary hearings for consideration on the extent of other key party involvement, detailed work on documentary disclosure evidence from the council, police and other core participants to identify deep seated failings within the past care and policing systems, cross referencing, and work with counsel on composing Rule 10 questioning of corporate and police witnesses giving evidence at the IICSA Lambeth hearing. Lisa also accompanied a key core participant giving evidence to the IICSA hearing providing support and understanding to ensure her client’s evidence was sensitively taken into account when the panel make recommendations to protect children in the future. Questions were raised on the effectiveness of the current Serious Case Review system and how this has been operating within police and council’s across the country, something which has also been identified whilst working on specific civil cases. The hope is that improvements in the child protection mechanisms can ensure the safety of children in future.

Lisa also specialises in CICA claims, an area of work which has increased significantly following the lifting of the pre 1979 same home abuse rule which facilitated many victims being able to finally achieve justice relating to serious childhood abuse.

Lisa also has extensive particular experience in running civil claims relating to foster carer abuse, abuse in private/public/approved school institutions, church abuse, and abuse linked to gymnastics.

Her extensive knowledge of the Civil Procedure Rules, skills in evidence gathering and analysis of liability and causation, and experience in risk assessment and settlement negotiation make her a valuable asset to clients and colleagues alike.

Lisa has more than 20 years’ experience of dealing with Personal Injury matters ranging from road traffic accidents to workplace injury and liability.

Lisa is fluent in German and Persian. She also has experience in Civil Litigation regarding Debt Recovery, Breach of Contract, and Insolvency Law

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"I would like to express my profound heartfelt gratitude to Lisa Gafarov for all her hard work and understanding when representing me. She fought passionately for my case for two years.

Within this time, never once did I feel it was about the money for her. She was very considerate and dealt with many personal matters in a caring and professional way. It was a very sensitive case but she put in a lot of hard work and went the extra mile each time. Her wide range of expertise was indispensable during this difficult time. Because of this I trusted all her advice and as a result, this took a lot of pressure off of me.

She managed to reach a very amicable conclusion between the defendants and myself. You don’t know how much your passion impacts the lives of others. For this I am forever grateful. I would recommend your firm a hundred times over."
Anonymous, April 2019

Lisa studied ‘Contract Law, European Law and Employment Law’ as part of her degree in BA (Hons) Business Administration. She has also studied other business subjects, including accounting.

Having completed her degree, Lisa started work for Verisona Law in November 1999 in the Personal Injury department as a Trainee Litigation Clerk and since then has developed extensive skills in relation to personal injury litigation and case preparation.

  • Road traffic accidents
  • Accidents at work
  • Slip and trip claims
  • Occupier’s liability claims
  • Product Liability claims
  • Industrial disease claims
  • Work related upper limb disorder claims
  • Clinical negligence, including amputation claims
  • Cosmetic surgery claims
  • Abuse claims

"Thank you for all your much appreciated hard work. I will truly never forget your kindness towards me. Your patience, respect and understanding at all times was beyond words. The sincere compassion shown meant more to me than words could ever express. This firm will forever hold a special place in my heart."

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