‘Inadequate’ children’s mental health hospital ‘put safety of patients at risk’ CQC report finds

Huntercombe Hospital in Stafford put children with mental health needs at risk, says CQC

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Thursday 10 March 2022 11:50
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<p>The hospital was found to have a number of failings, the CQC report found (file photo) </p>

The hospital was found to have a number of failings, the CQC report found (file photo)

Serious safety concerns have been raised about a children’s mental health hospital where staff lacked respect for patients, as the provider faces a police investigation into another one of its units.

The Huntercombe Hospital in Stafford has been rated as “inadequate” by watchdog the Care Quality Commission after inspectors found the safety of children within the hospital was at risk.

The concerns about this hospital come as The Independent revealed police have launched an investigation into another mental health unit run by the provider in Maidenhead.

Following an inspection in October inspectors sent an urgent warning notice to the provider, after it found there were not enough staff to keep patients safe.

The hospital was described as relaying on agency workers who did not have knowledge of the patients.

The CQC inspectors found children’s wards were dirty with poor hygiene measures in the hospital and patients at risk of infection.

According to the report staff were found “sitting with their eyes closed for prolonged periods of time”, and that staff observations of at risk patients were “undermined by a blind spot where people could self-harm unseen.”

Craig Howarth, CQC head of inspection for mental health and community health services, said: “Further to these issues, we saw that staff sometimes showed a lack of respect to patients and one ward was poorly furnished and maintained and there wasn’t always enough emphasis on some people’s individual requirements.”

The inspection report said: “Children and young people on Hartley ward gave examples where staff did not use the correct pronoun when referring to children and young people as per their wishes and care plan.

“Children and young people also told us night staff were noisy and rude and had inappropriate conversations that children and young people were able to hear...

“We observed one young person was sat on their own on the floor for two hours of our visit and the member of staff was sat away from them, not engaging in any conversation or having any interaction.

“When approached by the CQC inspector, the children and young people was happy to engage in conversation.”

Inspectors said staff did everything they could to avoid restraining children but did record 45 incidents of rapid tranquilisation from 1 July to 31 September 2021.

In 2018 the hospital, which providers care for 37 children and young people aged eight to 18 years, was rated as “good” by the CQC.

Care concerns about the provider’s Roehampton hospital, Norwich hospital and more recently Maidenhead were raised by the Care Quality Commission.

In February The Independent revealed the police are investigating the Maidenhead unit following an incident with a young female patients.

One unit, called Watcombe Hall in Torquay was previously shut after a healthcare worker was found to have sexually abused patients.

Coroners have also raised concerns following inquests in a number of other Huntercombe Hospitals since 2012.

In 2018 the CQC raised concerns about the management across all of the Huntercombe Hospitals.

However, in February 2021 the were sold and taken over by a new provider Active Care Group.

The CQC said it did find some good practice such as detailed patient care plans and that the service successfully monitored people’s physical health.

However, the care watchdog said it must ensure it has sufficient qualified staff providing care, and ensure the wards are clean and well maintained.

A spokesperson for Active Care Group said the company was “disappointed” with the CQC’s findings.

It added: “We are fully committed to providing the best possible care and many of the required improvements, highlighted by the CQC, have already been made, including fitting a mirror on the Wedgwood unit stairs to deal with a blind spot; creating a rota of senior management team members to conduct regular night visits; holding workshops on culture, behaviours, and professional boundaries; and strengthening social distancing and other infection control measures.”

“We continue to liaise with the CQC to address the overall rating and would urge people to read the full report, as, throughout, there are many positives about the care we provide .”

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