Learning difficulty services to be scrutinised

Learning difficulty services across England and Wales are to be put under scrutiny following an investigation into alleged abuse of people with learning difficulties at Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust, the Healthcare Commission said today.

The commission has alerted health secretary Patricia Hewitt of “significant failings” in services for people with learning difficulties at the trust following the early stages of the investigation.

The investigation, which began in June, centres on Budock Hospital near Falmouth, a treatment centre with 14 inpatients and around 45 houses occupied by 170 residents.

So far, further allegations of abuse have been brought to light and six cases have been referred to the Cornwall Adult Protection Committee where they are under investigation.

The commission has called for the introduction of an outside team to address concerns and carry out improvements while its investigation continues. This will be carried out by the South West Peninsula strategic health authority and the Valuing People support team.

The commission now plans to check whether the problems found at the trust are occurring elsewhere in the country by stepping up its audit and inspection of learning difficulty services.

Anne Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “It is absolutely vital that serious allegations are thoroughly investigated. We must do everything possible to protect this group of people from abuse and reassure those who have put their trust in this service.”

She added: “I sincerely hope that this is an isolated problem, but we need to make absolutely sure. That is why we will be using out powers of audit and inspection to look at other services for people with learning difficulties to ensure this vulnerable group is protected.”

The commission will publish a full report when the investigation is complete.



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