- CQC announces inquiry over Whorlton Hall whistleblower claims
The Care Quality Commission has announced a former civil servant will carry out an independent inquiry into a former inspector’s claims that reports of poor care at Whorlton Hall hospital were not acted on.
Following a BBC Panorama investigation last week, which exposed horrifying abuse of learning disabled patients at the Durham hospital, former CQC inspector Barry Stanley-Wilkinson claimed he had led an investigation of the hospital in 2015 and proposed it be rated “inadequate”.
Mr Wilkinson claimed his report, written after a three-day visit and involving seven members of staff, was buried by the CQC and never published, leading him to resign in protest. He claimed on social media that he became a whistleblower, and that a subsequent investigation concluded his report should have been published.
The CQC last week apologised for failing to identify abuse of patients at the hospital. It added the 2015 report “did not raise any concerns about abusive practice” and that the report lacked the evidence to justify a rating of “requires improvement” for the hospital. It is unclear why it referred to a “requires improvement” rating.
Today, the CQC announced it had asked David Noble, a former senior civil servant, to carry out an independent review of the claims and how Mr Stanley-Wilkinson’s concerns were handled.
Mr Noble worked across Whitehall, including for the Home Office and Cabinet Office as well as the European Commission.
His review will focus on concerns raised about the draft report prepared in 2015, and how they were addressed through the CQC’s internal processes.
The CQC has also said it is commissioning a wider review of its regulation of Whorlton Hall between 2015 and 2019, which will include recommendations for how its regulation of similar services can be improved.
It has pledged to publish the full terms of reference for both independent reviews on its website and said the findings will be presented to its public board.
Welcoming the CQC’s two reviews, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “I was appalled by the disturbing allegations of abuse at Whorlton Hall and am determined to ensure lessons are learnt so this never happens again…It is clear that opportunities to intervene were missed and we must be open and transparent in getting to the bottom of why this happened.”
Last week, Mr Hancock called for a review into the care of every patient in long-term segregation or seclusion.
The CQC previously hired Mr Noble to investigate claims the watchdog covered up an alleged rape of a vulnerable patient at a care home in London by a sex offender. In his report, published last year, Mr Noble concluded there was “no evidence whatsoever that there was any cover-up at CQC”, although he did find fault with some of its regulation and processes.
Update: This story was updated at 14:32 on 31 May to include comment from Matt Hancock