MORE than 700 cases of abuse and ill-treatment of adults with learning disabilities were reported in Hampshire over the last year.

County council figures show there were 732 complaints between March 2011 and April 2012 – up 16 per cent on the previous year.

Elderly people, those with learning or physical disabilities and the mentally ill can be classified as vulnerable adults.

In total, there were 2,145 allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults, a rise of five per cent, including some where they had been slapped, locked in bedrooms or left to go hungry.

And while greater numbers of elderly people fall victim to abuse, the biggest rise was among adults with learning disabilities.

Forty-two per cent of all incidents were in care homes at the hands of nurses and other staff. Three out of ten complaints related to events at home.

Hospitals and health centres were the location for around 10 per cent of cases.

The annual report from Hampshire Adults Safeguarding Board shows only six per cent of cases resulted in police action, such as arrest or caution, although this is nearly double the previous year.

And there are no published figures to show how many incidents resulted in staff being sacked or suspended or referred to watchdogs such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council to investigate whether they should be struck-off.

About a third of cases involved physical abuse which can include hitting, pushing or locking dementia patients in a bedroom to stop them from wandering.

A similar proportion of incidents concerned neglect. This can include vulnerable adults being denied food, drink or medicine or left in soiled clothing for hours.

A further 16 per cent were suspected financial abuse such as stealing or pressure to alter wills.

County chiefs have linked the increase in cases to raised public awareness and training staff to report concerns.

The BBC Panorama documentary in May 2011, called Undercover Care exposed staff seriously abusing adults with learning disabilities in a private Winterbourne View, a private hospital in Bristol.

Four people were arrested after secret filming showed vulnerable adults being slapped, dragged across the floor and taunted by people who were supposed to be caring for them.

Jason Carlisle, Mencap's regional campaigns officer: "The abuse scandal at Winterbourne View Hospital has shown how crucial it is that local areas have procedures in place to safeguard adults at risk of abuse and neglect and that safeguarding is taken seriously by all agencies concerned.”

Councillor Felicity Hindson, who is responsible for adult social services at the county council, “We want people to report their concerns to us so they can be fully investigated and, in cases where evidence of abuse is found, vulnerable adults are given the protection they need.”

The figures don’t include Southampton or Portsmouth which have their own safeguarding boards.

* To report concerns about abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult call 0845 603 5630.