| 16.8°C Dublin

Irish tycoons own hospital at centre of UK abuse storm

FOUR Irish tycoons are caught up in a storm in England over abuses at a unit for people with learning disabilities.

Denis Brosnan, JP McManus, Dermot Desmond and John Magnier are investors in the Winterbourne View hospital near Bristol, which was the subject of a BBC Panorama probe.

The programme spent months investigating after it was approached by a whistleblower, Terry Bryan, who is a former nurse at the hospital.

Four staff have been arrested as a result of the allegations.

The British Prime Minister has asked for a detailed account of what the various agencies knew and did about the regime at the unit.

Winterbourne is part of the Castlebeck Group, which is ultimately owned by the four Irishmen and a number of other wealthy investors.

The families of two of the victims apparently singled out for abuse are planning legal action against the company.

The mother of one of the victims said her son deserved "more than an apology".

Castlebeck has a £55m (€62m) turnover and runs more than 50 care homes throughout Britain.

Panorama showed film from hidden cameras of a nurse taunting a patient about suicide and subjecting others to cold showers. A patient was pinned to the floor by a chair in another clip.

Non-executive directors at Castlebeck ordered an independent inquiry into standards at each of its 56 hospitals after Panorama notified them of the allegations last month.

Mr Bryan had written twice to Castlebeck management last year and also complained to England's Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is an independent regulator, but nothing was done.


The programme had echoes of RTE's expose of the treatment of elderly patients at Leas Cross Nursing Home in Swords, Co Dublin.

A four-page email from Mr Bryan to the manager at the home details his concerns about the "confrontational and aggressive" approach of staff.

He wrote: "Certain established staff members seem to relish restraint procedures. I have witnessed some with smiles on their faces as they restrain people. I see scant regard for the person's feelings whilst they are being held ... and definitely no empathy."

The mother of Simon, a 37-year-old with a mental age of four who was singled out for abuse, said she is still very angry about what happened and is in "a state of shock". She described his treatment as "assault and abuse". Castlebeck acknowledged a complaint was made by Mr Bryan on October 11, 2010, but said the company's usual rules for investigating allegations were not followed.

It insisted neither the chief executive nor any member of the firm's board was made aware of the problems before May 12 last.

Castlebeck has suspended two members of its managerial staff pending further inquiries.

Paul Burstow, the social care minister, described the levels of abuse as "appalling" and ordered a review into why the regulator ignored the concerns raised.

The CQC admitted that it had made an "unforgivable error of judgment", saying it should have taken action sooner and apologising "to those who have been let down".