A REGULATOR which failed to detect potential human rights abuses at a private hospital in County Durham has come under fire from MPs.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been criticised by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights for its handling of the Whorlton Hall scandal.

The CQC has previously been accused of failing to publish an inspection report on the hospital, near Barnard Castle, in 2015 which contained allegations of bullying and claimed patients were being secluded without proper processes being in place.

The health watchdog rated the hospital ‘good’ following an inspection in 2017, but is now conducting an investigation after a BBC Panorama programme earlier this year appeared to show staff mocking, taunting, intimidating and repeatedly restraining patients.

A police investigation is also ongoing into the allegations at Whorlton Hall, which has closed and is presently boarded up.

In relation to the CQC the report, released today (Friday, November 1), said that “a regulator which gets it wrong is worse than no regulator at all”.

The committee also said that mental health legislation must be overhauled to stop the “horrific” and inappropriate detention of young people with autism or learning disabilities.

The human rights of many young people are being breached in mental health hospitals, causing their lives to be “needlessly blighted” and their families to suffer, the report found.

The committee said it has “lost confidence that the system is doing what it says it is doing and the regulator’s method of checking is not working”.

It is calling criteria to be detained under the Mental Health Act to be narrowed to protect people from the “horrific reality” of conditions and treatment.

Labour MP Harriet Harman, chairwoman of the committee, said: “This inquiry has shown with stark clarity the urgent change that is needed and we’ve set out simple proposals for exactly that. They must now be driven forward, urgently.

“It has been left to the media and desperate, anguished parents to expose the brutal reality of our system of detention of people with learning disabilities or autism. We must not look away.

“The horrific reality is of whole lives needlessly blighted, and families in despair. What we saw does not fit our society’s image of itself as one which cares for the vulnerable and respects everyone’s human rights. It must not be allowed to continue.”

The committee launched an inquiry in January into the often long-term detention of young people with learning disabilities or autism.

It said it has no confidence in the Government’s target to reduce the numbers of people with these conditions in mental health facilities.

The committee laid out a “predictable” pathway to detention in which a child’s condition worsens, their under-supported family struggles to cope and they are then are taken away.

Isolated and without familiarity, their condition further deteriorates, plans to return home are shelved and concerned parents are treated with hostility.

Some parents are excluded from decisions around their child, while others told the inquiry they had been “gagged” from speaking out.

One mother said her son, whose arm was snapped after being wrenched up behind his back, had to wait 24 hours before being taken to A&E.

Another parent told of how their son, kept in seclusion for hours at a time, would bite the wood in the doorframe “out of desperation”.

Some young people are not receiving appropriate medical treatment but are subject to physical and medical restraint, such as psychotropic medication, which is intended for those with a serious mental health illness, the committee said.

The MPs believe the biggest barrier to progress is a “lack of political focus and accountability”. They are calling for a unit within Number 10 lead by cabinet members to drive forward reform.