Whorlton Hall took 'massive toll' on County Durham staff, court hears

The specialist unit for people with complex needs, which has since closed, was privately run but funded by the NHS. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A hospital for vulnerable patients took a "massive toll" on those working there, a court heard.

Teesside Crown Court heard how patients with learning disabilities were verbally abused and mocked by staff at Whorlton Hall, near Barnard Castle in County Durham.

The jury was told staff injuries were a "major feature" of working there.

The defendants, six men and three women, deny mistreating patients in early 2019.

BBC reporter Olivia Davies went undercover at the 17-bed hospital for a Panorama documentary. She would write up journals and film video diaries after completing shifts at the hospital.

The following people are standing trial at Teesside Crown Court:

  • John Sanderson, 25, of Cambridge Avenue, Willington, who faces two charges of ill-treatment of a person in care.

  • Darren Mark Lawton, 47, of Miners Crescent, Darlington, who faces two counts of ill-treatment of a person in care.

  • Niall Mellor, 26, of Lingmell Dene, Coundon, Bishop Auckland, is accused of two counts of ill-treatment of a patient.

  • Sarah Banner, 33, from Faulkner Road, Newton Aycliffe, is accused of three counts of ill-treatment of a patient.

  • Her husband Matthew Banner, 43, of the same address, is charged with six counts of ill-treatment of a patient.

  • Ryan Fuller, 26, from of Deerbolt Bank, Barnard Castle, faces ten charges of ill-treatment of a patient.

  • Sabah Mahmood, 27, of Woodland Crescent, Kelloe, is charged with one count of ill-treatment of a patient.

  • Peter Bennett, 52, of Redworth Road, Billingham, faces three counts of ill-treatment of a patient.

  • Karen McGhee, 54, from Wildair Close, Darlington, faces two counts of ill-treatment of a patient and one of wilful neglect.

Jonathan Walker, representing defendant Sarah Banner, asked Ms Davies if she had become "battle-hardened" by the working environment at the unit and whether "Whorlton Hall took a massive toll on people who worked there".

The witness agreed, and also accepted that some staff did not come back after completing just one day's work at the hospital.

Mr Walker continued: "Sarah Banner was battle-hardened to that environment, wasn't she?

"Battle-hardened by a period of a year or so more than you (working there).

"Battle-hardened by numerous injuries (she received) at Whorlton Hall, because that was a major feature of working at Whorlton Hall."

Ms Davies agreed and later said: "It was really hard work."

Nine members of staff were charged with a total of 27 offences.

The trial continues.

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