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.


James works as a Team Administrator for the Historic Abuse Department, supporting Charles Derham, David Hawkins and Lisa Gafarov providing day-to-day support in the running of the team as well as undertaking drafting of documents and other administrative tasks.

James completed a 12 month placement with Verisona Law in 2018 working in the Historic Abuse department, where he has developed an in-depth understanding of this highly specialised area, before returning to work part-time with the team while he completes the final year of his Law with Business (LLB) degree at the University of Portsmouth.

In addition to his law degree, James is also completing the CILEx (Lvl 6) qualification in further application of putting theory into practice

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