FOUR people have resigned from the government’s long-awaited review into the use of restraint, seclusion and segregation of people with learning disabilities and autism following revelations about a private hospital in County Durham.

The members of the expert advisory group to the review commissioned by Health Secretary Matt Hancock quit over the Care Quality Commission’s handling of the Whorlton Hall scandal, which came to light last month.

Yesterday the Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care, Barbara Keeley, called for an independent inquiry into the CQC to determine whether it was "fit for purpose".

The resignations, which include Dr Sara Ryan, whose 18-year-old son Connor Sparrowhawk drowned while under the care of an NHS trust, were revealed by Ms Keeley, who has blasted the CQC for its "continued reluctance to accept serious failure".

In a letter to CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm following his appearance before the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, Ms Keeley also criticised the responses he and Paul Lelliott, the deputy chief inspector of hospitals, gave to MPs investigating the abuse of patients by staff at the hospital, which is in Whorlton, near Barnard Castle.

The CQC has been accused of failing to publish an inspection report on Whorlton Hall in 2015 which contained allegations of bullying and claimed patients were being secluded without proper processes being in place.’

Ms Keeley told the CQC chief: “I share the view being expressed by a number of people that you and Paul Lelliott were evasive on the real issues and seemed determined to protect your own organisation’s reputation rather than the needs of people who use the services you inspect.

“Your continued reluctance to accept serious failure which emerged in this scandal is causing harm and distress to the patients who use similar services and their families.

Last month, the CQC released an interim report on its review of the use of restrictive interventions in places that provide care for people with mental health problems that claimed a high proportion of people in segregation had autism and that many staff at the services lacked the necessary training and skills to look after them.

The group is due to make recommendations to the Department of Health by March 2020.

Among the resignations from the Expert Advisory Group are Julie Newcombe, the co-founder of the campaign group Rightful Lives, Professor Chris Hatton, and someone known just as Jeremy, the father of 17-year-old Bethany who was kept in seclusion at an assessment and treatment unit in Northampton.

In his resignation via Twitter, Chris Hatton wrote: “I am aghast at how the @CareQualityComm has behaved concerning Whorlton Hall, & your performance at the @HumanRightsCtte this afternoon means that my further involvement is at best pointless and at worst lending the CQC false legitimacy.

Dr Ryan added: "And mine please. That was an exemplar in blame shifting, response ducking and little thought of patients harmed. A chilling and shameful absence of integrity."

Jeremy, Bethany’s dad, also resigned, saying; “It was my daughter’s case and my meeting with @MattHancock that prompted the Review. Honesty, Trust and Integrity are massively important to me. I said I felt dirtied over the way you released the interim report. To hear your lame excuses and your pathetic reasoning over the Whorton Hall scandal sickened me. You released interim recommendations without the Expert Advisory Group discussing them I won’t be part of another cover up.

In her letter to the CQC, Ms Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South, said: “The fact that family members and experts in this area should feel so let down by your handling of this scandal that they resign from this group should give you serious cause for concern.”

She said the failure of the CQC to act on problems that emerged during an inspection of Whorlton Hall in 2015 raised concerns about the inspection process that the CQC carries out on services that are rated Requires Improvement.

“The treatment of residents at Whorlton Hall raises serious questions about the treatment of residents in a wider number of care settings and about your inspection of these settings. More needs to be done to protect residents and patients from abuse and poor quality care and I continue to watch your handling of this scandal closely.”