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Care watchdog 'wrong' not to publish report on Whorlton Hall.

The care watchdog was wrong not to publish an inspection report raising concerns about care home, Whorlton Hall, four years before a media investigation portrayed alleged abuse, a review says.

Former Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector, Barry Stanley-Wilkinson, said not publishing his 2015 report was a "missed opportunity" to prevent further abuse.

Undercover filming by BBC’s Panorama programme appeared to show patients with learning difficulties being mistreated. Ten workers were later arrested.

The County Durham hospital, which has now been closed, treated patients with severe learning difficulties and autism.

The CQC commissioned David Noble QSO to carry out an independent review into how it dealt with the concerns raised by Mr Stanley-Wilkinson's draft inspection report and how senior staff addressed them.

The unpublished 2015 report found the hospital, near Barnard Castle, "required improvement", raising a number of concerns, including inadequate staffing levels, a lack of training and a failure to follow patients' care plans.

But a subsequent report in 2016 gave the privately-run, NHS-funded unit an overall rating of "good.”

The Noble review makes seven recommendations relating to the security and availability of CQC inspection notes; information provided to inspectors about services, and the internal whistleblowing processes of the CQC.

It said one of the main reasons Mr Stanley-Wilkinson's report was not published was that it was considered to be "not of publishable quality" and lacked evidence to back up some of the findings.

But Mr Stanley-Wilkinson, who later resigned from the CQC, said the failure to publish his 2015 report "was a missed opportunity to potentially prevent the abusive practices that we saw in the Panorama documentary.”

He added: "I'm still struggling to understand why that inspection report was never published. The CQC has said there wasn't sufficient evidence within the report but I was never asked to make any amendments, or to supplement the report with further evidence.

"It was not just the responsibility of my managers to say there was insufficient evidence within the report, it was also that of a quality panel but the report never went to one."

Whorlton Hall had at least 100 visits by official agencies in the year before the abuse was discovered.

A separate review of the CQC's regulation of the hospital between 2015 and 2019 has yet to be published.

Danshell Group ran the 17-bed hospital unit in 2015 and was taken over by Cygnet in 2018. Cygnet said it was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the abuse allegations.