More confused than shocked
Why wasn’t I more shocked when I saw the abuse at Whorlton Hall in a recent Panorama programme?
The BBC described it as “showing patients with learning disabilities at the 17-bed hospital unit being mocked, taunted, intimidated and repeatedly restrained by staff.”
I was asked to watch the programme because of my job as a Quality Checker, which I’ll explain later. I had special support because people who know me well felt it would be too much for me to watch it on my own, as I’ve lived with mental health problems for over 30 years. So, I watched it with somebody else. But I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more shocked. Everybody thought I would be, and I wasn’t.
For a long time, I thought about it because I really was confused. This will sound strange, but I didn’t understand why people didn’t know what happens in hospitals like Whorlton Hall. I don’t think it happens in all places like that, but I was surprised that people didn’t know that there is quite a lot of bad practice out there.
When I was in hospital, I experienced being restrained. I don’t know if it had been done the right way or not. It seemed a bit odd to me, but nothing like the level of Whorlton Hall. At that time, I couldn’t say something isn’t right, because I wasn’t well.
I found it sad watching the people at Whorlton Hall, who were outnumbered, vulnerable and unable to stand up for themselves. Well done to those staff who blew the whistle, because without them those people would still be suffering.
I started using Choice Support services in about 2008 and I’m currently supported around my employment. I work as a Quality Checker and visit people who use Choice Support services to see what they think of them. I ask a series of questions and do observations in order to find out whether people are happy and safe. As a Quality Checker, if I had a bad feeling about something I’ve seen, I would whistle blow.
After watching the programme, I was supported to write an article for other Choice Support staff to read in our newsletter. It’s so important for staff to hear first-hand experience.
What was lovely at the end was that the girl who had been so badly abused was shown in a photograph where she’d dyed her hair blue. This showed me that she was now doing what she wanted to do. It was about her life. In a way, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to work. I’m running a house and living independently but I still have disabilities. My life is much better than it was say 10 years ago, but places like Whorlton Hall shouldn’t exist, it shouldn’t be that it must get that bad before anybody does anything. We are all shocked, but what are we doing to make it better?
You can still watch the Whorlton Hall Panorama programme.