UK inquiry criticises conditions at Irish investors' care home
AN ENGLISH private hospital group owned by Irish investors, led by former Kerry Group chief executive Denis Brosnan, where dozens of patients were ill-treated by staff at one of its hospitals, pursued profit over “humane” treatment, a major inquiry has declared.
Eleven former staff at the now- closed Winterbourne View hospital in Bristol for adults with autism and learning difficulties have pleaded guilty to beating patients, dousing them in water and encouraging some to consider suicide. They will be sentenced next month.
Now, an inquiry has found serious management errors by the group, Castlebeck, along with multiple failures by the National Health Service, the care home regulator, and, to a lesser extent, local police, to discover and stop the abuses.
Castlebeck was bought in 2006 for £255 million (€321 million) by Swiss-based Lydian Capital Partners, set up by Mr Brosnan. JP McManus, Dermot Desmond, John Magnier and other wealthy Irish investors later bought in to Lydian.
“Castlebeck appears to have made decisions about profitability, including shareholder returns, over and above decisions about the effective and humane delivery of assessment, treatment and rehabilitation,” the Serious Case Review found. “It is clear that at critical points in the wretched history of Winterbourne View, key decisions about priorities were taken by Castlebeck which impaired the ability of this hospital to improve the mental health and physical health and wellbeing of its patients.”
Local NHS managers had been willing to buy Winterbourne’s services “irrespective” of English health guidelines, while their oversight was “unequal to the task of uncovering the fact and extent of abuses and crimes”, the report continued.
The abuses were disclosed by a BBC television Panorama undercover investigation.
Subsequently, Castlebeck closed three hospitals, including Winterbourne, changed management and significantly improved staff training.
Criticising Castlebeck’s attitude since then, the inquiry said that Castlebeck’s own investigation, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, had failed to look at key issues – including the presence of police on 29 occasions at the hospital.
Furthermore, it refused to detail how the £3,500 weekly fee charged for each patient was spent, on grounds of “commercial sensitivity”. It also refused to share unredacted copies of the PwC inquiry, along with a review of managers.
Last night, no comment could be secured from the investors in response to the criticisms. Last year, Mr Brosnan said that all had been “shocked and appalled at what happened and determined that this will never happen again”.