Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Panorama & the Question of how we care for Society's most Vulnerable Adults

I watched this shocking programme through my hands in some parts & switched off in tears when it got to the most disturbing part - a vulnerable young woman left shivering outside on the ground after being repeatedly doused in cold water by her so-called carers.

Chrissy is in a privately-run hospital like the one investigated last night. She has also lived in residential care homes. I’ve had fears, but never real suspicions, about physical abuse. However, some would argue that physical abuse includes being needlessly chemically coshed, which has happened to Chrissy. (A safeguarding meeting was held to deal with it.) Because Chrissy frequently self-harms, injuries from abuse could be easily masked - and she wouldn't have the language to report it.

The crux of the problem, which wasn’t the programme’s main focus, is the lack of effective support & treatment for complex & challenging learning disabled adults. They are there because they're exceptionally difficult to manage. As in Chrissy's case, several care home placements may have broken down, yet carers are often inexperienced & poorly supported with only the most rudimentary training. These privately run hospitals & residential homes are there to make money. The expertise that they are being paid huge sums like £3,500 a week for is insufficient & spread far too thinly across too many patients.

We need more long-stay places with a therapeutic environment for patients like these - but we must get it right. Too many council-run assessment & treatment units have been closed down, leaving an over-reliance on privately-run hospitals like the one on Panorama. In the meantime, from immediate effect, there must be unannounced spot-checks. It is far too easy to present a false picture to families and external care managers. The programme made harrowing watching but, as well as exposing evil, it raises important questions about how we care for our most vulnerable adults.


  1. I was listening to a news item on the radio about this and it made me think about you and Chrissy and I wondered if you had heard it and how you would be feeling if you had. I did not realise it had been on Panorama. I can understand how upsetting this must have been to watch. I agree with your comments especially with regards to spot checks.

    1. Thanks Nanny Anne, Chrissy's story is one of several in the report 'Out of Sight' by Mencap & the Challenging Behaviour Foundation. The hospital is now meeting her needs & we're lucky it's relatively close by but we have a very dim view of the commissioners. They wanted her to go somewhere miles away from home & until I forced the issue they were happy to dump her at the unit & forget about her.