New regulation to tackle care abuse

Banbury Cake: Six staff members at Winterbourne View residential hospital were jailed in October Six staff members at Winterbourne View residential hospital were jailed in October

Tougher regulation including possible new criminal legislation to strengthen corporate accountability could be introduced in the wake of the "devastating" scandal of abuse at the Winterbourne View private hospital, the Government has announced.

Care services minister Norman Lamb said the Winterbourne View case had revealed weaknesses in the system's ability to hold the leaders of care organisations to account.

Under the plans, proposals to hold boards, directors and senior managers accountable for the safety and quality of care that their organisations provide, including exploring whether tougher regulatory or criminal sanctions are necessary, will be brought forward by spring next year.

Mr Lamb said he felt "very strongly" that those in charge of care homes at the centre of abuse cases should be held accountable.

"When you look at Winterbourne View, the people who committed the abuse and the assaults were convicted, but what about the people making the money from that company?" he said. "We need to have a situation where people who run care organisations, public or private sector or voluntary, know that they are accountable for the services they provide and there are consequences if they don't.

"Next spring we will announce proposals to address the gap in the law on effective corporate accountability."

The minister's remarks were made as the Government unveiled plans to move out of long stay hospital every person with a learning disability or autism who does not need to be there.

Under the plans, the cases of all patients in current placements will be reviewed by June next year with a view to placing anyone being treated "inappropriately" in hospital into community-based support by June 2014.

"I want this to be seen as a moment when there is a collective view that there needs to be a substantial culture change in society, that people with learning disabilities have the same rights as anybody else, and that we cannot any longer tolerate inappropriate care or treatment for these people and we have a collective obligation from top to bottom to change this and that there is a national imperative that we act decisively on that," Mr Lamb said.

In October six members of staff - four support workers and two nurses - were jailed for between six months and two years for their roles in the abuse at the Winterbourne View Hospital in Hambrook, South Gloucestershire. Five others were given suspended prison sentences by a judge at Bristol Crown Court, who condemned the "culture of ill-treatment" and said it had "corrupted and debased".

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