Arrests in Britain after patient abuse caught on film

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Four people were arrested after carers at a residential hospital in Britain were filmed physically abusing vulnerable adults with learning difficulties, police said Wednesday.

The private operator of the hospital in Bristol, southwest England, apologised unreservedly for the apparent misconduct and said it was "distressed" and "shocked" by the accusations made in the BBC's Panorama TV programme.

The undercover recordings, made in February and March this year, appear to show carers punching and slapping residents of the Winterbourne View hospital, throwing cold water on them, and pinning them to the ground with chairs.

Other footage showed residents being dragged into showers while fully clothed and being taunted by the carers.

Police said three men, aged 25, 30 and 42, and a 24-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of assault and mistreatment. They were released on bail.

Clinical psychologist Andrew McDonnell told the BBC he was shocked by the footage and described some of the examples captured on film as "torture".

He told the programme that basic techniques for dealing with patients with challenging behaviour were ignored.

After viewing one excerpt, he said: "This is not a jail... people are not here to be punished.

"This is a therapeutic environment. Where's the therapy in any of this? I would argue this is torture."

One resident of the hospital, 18-year-old Simone, was shown apparently being verbally abused and doused with cold water as a punishment.

Her parents told the programme that she had informed them she was being abused at the hospital, but they had assured her that it would not be allowed to happen.

"She told us, that she had been hit, her hair had been pulled and she'd been kicked -- and I said no, this wouldn't happen, they're not allowed," said the patient's mother.

Lee Reed, the chief executive officer of the home's operators Castlebeck, said: "I was shocked, disgusted and ashamed by what I saw on Panorama.

"Having spent my entire career in health and social care, I intend to leave no stone unturned to ensure that this type of horrific event is never allowed to happen again."

The company said it is now in "active consultation" with the appropriate authorities with regard to the future of the hospital, which cares for up to 24 patients, employs around 50 members of staff and is funded by taxpayers.

© 2011 AFP

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