A HEALTH watchdog has admitted it was wrong not to publish a report which included ‘alarm bells’ about the abuse of patients at a mental health hospital.

An independent review has found the Care Quality Commission missed the chance identify serious failings at Whorlton Hall, near Barnard Castle.

Bosses at the care safeguarding body have been criticised for not acting on the concerns of its own members in 2015.

Former inspector Barry Stanley-Wilkinson wrote the report four years before BBC Panorama revealed the alleged abuse of patients with learning disabilities and autism at the 17-bed unit.

An independent report, by David Noble, includes details of an email in May last year from Mr Stanley-Wilkinson to CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm, in which he states: “When I worked at CQC I was the inspector responsible for Whorlton Hall, I carried out its inspection [in 2015] and raised significant concerns about the place and the care and treatment of people.

“So much so I had no alternative but to whistleblow as the report I had written was hidden and not published by senior managers in CQC.

“This hospital was the fundamental reason that lead [sic] to my departure in 2016 so I hope you can appreciate my absolute disgust that action was never taken when I raised such serious concerns.”

The review finds that the decision not to publish the report, which found Whorlton Hall ‘required improvement’ prior to the 2016 re-inspection, which deemed it ‘good’, was wrong.

Mr Noble said: “This was a missed opportunity to record a poorly performing independent mental health institution which CQC as the regulator, with the information available to it, should have identified at that time.

“I have concluded, as did the internal CQC reviewer of the whistleblowing complaint, that the decision not to publish was wrong and I have further concluded that this error was compounded by the failure to then publish the report as recommended by the internal reviewer.

“Those decisions were a missed opportunity for CQC to publicise that the care and safety of patients at Whorlton Hall were indeed, not good.”

Ten people were arrested as part of the allegations and a police investigation is ongoing.

Whorlton Hall is now closed, but last June the CQC defended its decision not to publish the report and was accused of a ‘whitewash’ by the Human Rights Committee chaired by Harriet Harman MP.

However, after the review was published, Ian Trenholm, chief executive of CQC since 2018, said: “David Noble’s review concludes that the decision not to publish the report of the 2015 inspection was the wrong one, which we fully accept.

“The review also concludes that although the 2015 inspection did identify concerns about the operation of the hospital at Whorlton Hall, at that time, there was no evidence that patients were being abused.”

The independent review makes seven recommendations relating to the security and availability of notes from CQC inspections; information provided to inspectors about services; quality assurance processes; legal policies and processes; the internal whistleblowing process and how CQC investigates complaints from providers.

Mr Trenholm said: “David Noble has made a number of recommendations to CQC’s Board to improve processes and procedures. We welcome the findings and all his recommendations have been accepted in full.

“Some relate to work which is already underway, however there is still much to be done. We will be publishing an action plan setting out how we are addressing each recommendation at a future public board meeting.”

“We want to get better at spotting poor care and at using the information people share with us and will involve people, families, carers and stakeholder organisations to ensure we get it right.”