Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 13:00 UK

NHS faces huge claim for damages

Budock Hospital
The hospital was closed down in 2007

Lawyers are preparing a multi-million pound damages claim against the NHS for adults with learning difficulties who were abused while in care in Cornwall.

Lawyers are now taking evidence from up to 400 former patients to launch a group action for more than £2m.

Claims relate to Budock Hospital, near Falmouth, and a number of supported homes after government inspectors found evidence of "widespread abuse".

The report led to an audit of all mental health services in England.

Patients 'hit'

Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust (CPT), which is responsible for mental health care, was put in special measures after inspections in 2005 by the Healthcare Commission and Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).

The Healthcare Commission and CSCI's report in 2006 identified evidence of abuse including staff hitting, pushing and dragging patients.

There were also reports of staff withholding food, forcing patients to take cold showers and relying too much on medication to control behaviour.

The investigation team found one person spent 16 hours a day tied to their bed or wheelchair, with staff "wrongly believing" it was for the patient's own protection.

The report also revealed one person suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured skull.

Budock Hospital was closed in 2007 and care of its residents and those in the supported homes was handed over to Cornwall County Council's adult social care team and charities.

The defendants are the CPT and Comhome Ltd which owns most of the supported homes.

A team of 10 lawyers from two legal firms, Foot Anstey and Follett Stock, is now taking evidence from former patients.

It said the group claim would include assault, breach of human rights, use of physical intervention holds for restraint and medication issued without claimant's consents.

The case for damages could start in 2011.

The CPT said: "We are committed to putting right the wrongs of the past and we are fully co-operating with the process."

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