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Four Staff From Whorlton Hall Facility Guilty of Mistreating Vulnerable Patients

Four members of staff at a specialist hospital have been found guilty of mistreating vulnerable patients following a 2019 undercover BBC "Panorama" documentary.

Five other staff members were cleared of all charges following an investigation into alleged abuse at Whorlton Hall, a 17-bed independent unit for people with complex needs near Barnard Castle, County Durham.

Nine people were charged with a total of 27 offences after a reporter used a hidden camera at the hospital unit in early 2019.

Teesside Crown Court heard patients who were detained under the Mental Health Act, and who required 24-hour care, were distressed as they were verbally abused, mocked, and wound up by some of the staff at the hospital.

'Culture of Inappropriate Behaviour'

Opening the case to jurors in March, prosecutor Anne Richardson said: "It would appear that there was something of a culture of inappropriate behaviour within Whorlton Hall at the relevant time."

The BBC sent reporter Olivia Davies undercover to work at the unit in 2019, using a hidden camera for a "Panorama" documentary, to show the care offered by staff.

Miss Richardson said: "The Crown does not suggest that the defendants were ill-treating all of the residents all of the time – caring for those within Whorlton Hall was not an easy job." She told jurors the defendants have "largely indicated that they received minimal training, that the hall was understaffed and that those they cared for were extremely challenging".

The four defendants who were convicted will be sentenced at the same court on July 7.

Dan Scorer, head of policy at disability charity Mencap, said: "No-one who has seen the footage and read about the charges in this case can feel anything other than horror and disgust.

"Learning disabilities and autism are not conditions that can be 'treated', yet the NHS and the Government continue to fund private care facilities like Whorlton Hall.

"This distressing case represents another abject failure, and we cannot allow any more people to lose years of their lives to this abusive system."