The introduction of legal protections for adults in care is to be brought forward following revelations of abuse at a Bristol residential hospital, the government has indicated.

Details of a system of “safeguarding” boards similar to those in place for vulnerable children are to be published within a fortnight.

Health minister Paul Burstow had already accepted the need to introduce the change - part of a reform package drawn up by the Law Commission.

But the broadcast of footage of people with learning difficulties being punched, slapped and taunted by carers had focused public attention on the issue, officials said.

“We will legislate to make it a requirement for every council with social care responsibilities to have an adult safeguarding board,” Mr Burstow told the Independent on Sunday.

The bodies will bring together social services with the local NHS and police force but would not just be another layer of bureaucracy, he insisted.

The Care Quality Commission issued an unreserved apology last week for failing to act on warnings by whistleblower Terry Bryan about abuse at Winterbourne View residential hospital.

BBC Panorama filmed patients being pinned down, slapped, doused in cold water and repeatedly taunted and teased after Mr Bryan alerted them to the problems when his concerns were ignored.

Four people have been released on police bail and 13 members of staff suspended by owners Castlebeck - and the government is “looking closely” at how it was allowed to continue.

Mr Burstow told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that he did not believe the chair of the CQC, Dame Jo Williams, should resign over the failures.

He also criticised the “very odd business model” of Southern Cross, the owner of 750 care homes which has been plunged into financial difficulties.

The firm, responsible for looking after 31,000 elderly residents, has announced that it will underpay its rent from this week as it struggles with a £230m annual rental bill.

Mr Burstow renewed a government pledge that no residents would “find themselves out on the street” but insisted it was not stepping in financially.