An undercover investigation has revealed some disturbing information about the abuse of several individuals living with autism or disabilities at Co Durham, the NHS’s Whorlton Hall high-dependency complex.
Reporter Olivia Davies spent two months working at the facility and secretly filming the interactions between several staff members and the vulnerable adults they care for. Following her investigation, 16 of those workers have been suspended.
Davies’s footage captured several incidences of care workers bragging about their extreme distaste for their patients and some of the torturous things they’ve done, including attacking patients, causing bodily harm. Employees have also been filmed threatening and mocking patients and even mimicking sexual acts using a client’s teddy bears.
One of the victims of this abuse is a 20-year-old woman with autism named Alex. The young woman is known to be afraid of men, but when she has an outburst, the female workers are sent away, while the men taunt her. After they discovered that she was afraid of balloons, one man was filmed slapping a balloon into her bedroom and threatening to get more. Alex can be heard screaming on the video.
“It is like psychological torture because she is stuck there,” says Professor Glynis Murphy of Kent University. “She can’t get away.”
A total of eight care workers came out and told Davies that they had intentionally harmed patients. One claimed to have “clotheslined” a patient, while another deliberately hit a man in the chest. One worker even boasted of banging a patient’s head against the floor.
“Punch me and see what happens,” says one male care worker in the video footage as he gestures to an older woman. “I’ll put you through the floor.”
“I wouldn’t speak to a dog like that,” says Professor Murphy.
Davies says at one point she witnessed three cases of physical restraint of a patient in the space of five minutes. Another time, a female patient was held down by half a dozen men for a full 30 minutes. Staff are required to report such incidents of physical restraint, but there was evidence during Davies’s shifts that many cases were not reported and that reports were often fabricated.
On top of the reports of physical abuse, Davies’s camera also captured several pieces of disturbing dialogue between care workers concerning their patients. Things like, “She’s possessed,” “He’d make a good f****** target,” “fat c***” and “f****** idiot,” aren’t even the worst of the nightmarish comments employees of the hospital casually blurted out.
“As soon as she started screaming, I just wanted to f****** kill her,” says one care worker, making a circle with his hands as though to strangle the woman in question. “Get hold of the f****** c***.”
“It’s obviously a very deviant culture,” said Professor Murphy. “They are the absolute antithesis of what care workers should be.”
Now that the word is out about the abuse, an investigation is underway, and the care home is working to repair the damage done to their patients’ psyches. They’ve suspended the workers responsible for these heinous actions as police look into the issue further.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the allegations made against members of staff,” said a statement from Cygnet Health Care, which runs Whorlton Hall. “We take these allegations extremely seriously.”
The Care Quality Commission also apologized for not picking up on the abuse when they rated the home as “good” in 2017.
There are 12 patients at the hospital, many of whom live more than 100 miles away from their families, effectively preventing family members from witnessing and reporting abuse. Several of the patients have been in the hospital for more than a year.
The video below shows some of the footage Davies captured during her time that the facility. This may be difficult for some viewers to watch.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?