The British Institute for Learning Disabilities (BILD) has sent an open letter to the Minister for Care Services, following Panorama’s exposure of failings and abuse at Winterbourne View hospital in Bristol.

The letter, signed by BILD’s chief executive Keith Smith, states that the abuse aired in the programme has many of the similar failings as those uncovered by investigations into abuse at Sutton and Merton and Cornwall, especially when it comes to the treatment of people whose behaviour could be described as challenging. The letter goes on to say that the failings “must be seen as an integral part of an institutional culture that enables abuse, neglect and a denial of basic human rights.”

On sending the letter, Keith Smith said: “We welcome the Government’s decision to investigate regulatory and safeguarding failings by the Care Quality Commission and South Gloucestershire Council but wonder whether this will address the substantial problem here. “The regulatory and monitoring systems are consistently failing to keep the most vulnerable people safe.

Winterbourne View was inspected three times in the past 2 years but this did not stop the abuse. The problem is, the inspections tend to be office based, focussing on the paperwork but Inspectors should instead be spending more time with the people being supported and observing the quality of the care and relationships with staff.

Clearly, this will be difficult for the Care Quality Commission as their workload is increasing at the same time as budgets and staff numbers are being cut”. “Given this recurring problem of abuse and poor practice, we need to ask why we keep locking up people with learning disabilities in specialist provision, often many miles from their home communities. What we should be doing is developing local support centred on the needs of the individual that is both therapeutic and purposeful.”