‘They didn’t treat me like a human’: Teenagers restrained for hours and left with bruises in private hospital

Huntercombe Hospital given warning noticed by regulators over its care of youngsters.

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 19 May 2021 00:01 BST
The Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead
The Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead ( )

Teenagers treated at a private mental health unit for children rated inadequate by the care regulator have told how they were restrained for hours by staff multiple times a day and left covered in bruises.

The Care Quality Commission has served the Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead with a warning notice over its care of youngsters. The 60-bed hospital was rated inadequate and put into special measures in February.

As the latest inspection report was published on Wednesday by the CQC, five former patients and four parents, have spoken out about their care and how their pleas for help were ignored.

The Health Service Journal said multiple concerns had been raised about the hospital, including with NHS England, years before the CQC rated the home inadequate. It was previously rated “good” in 2016 and 2019.

One teenage patient, Amber-May Broughton-Smith, who spent around 14 months at the hospital from March 2019, told HSJ staff would routinely restrain her, and she was not allowed outside “for months”.

The 17-year-old added: “I would be in restraints for hours. You’d have one person on each arm, one person on each leg and then someone holding your head.

“Eventually they would give me medication and when that wore off they’d restrain me and give the medication again. At one point I used to get restrained about three times a day. They didn’t treat me like a human.

“The night before the CQC came in they’d have cleaners to clean the whole ward, and the day the CQC came in we would all have to be really nice to everyone.”

Her parents sent repeated complaints about what was happening.

Mum Nicola Broughton-Smith told the HSJ: “There were many external agencies that heard our concerns over and over again, and could have had the chance to interject.

“None of them stepped in and said we’ve got a problem here. They were saying ‘no, that’s not my responsibility’, and the hospital was run without any oversight.”

Another female patient, who asked not to be named but who was an inpatient on the unit in 2017, said: “There were a lot of male staff, and for a 17-year-old girl it’s quite hard to be restrained by a lot of men. Their restraint was awful I was left covered with bruises, I was left just sore, like I’d done a massive workout.”

Her parents raised concerns with local council staff including the over-use of drugs to sedate her. Although a meeting was held with the hospital and an NHS England care co-ordinator, no action was taken.

The HSJ said it had seen evidence of concerns dating back to 2016.

In February, the CQC criticised the home following inspection which raised serious concerns around over-use of medication to sedate patients.

In its latest report on Wednesday, the regulator said concerns about the quality of care for patients remained.

It has imposed a condition on the hospital requiring it to seek written permission from the CQC before admitting any new patients to its psychiatric intensive care wards and no more than 10 young people can be admitted to any ward.

The hospital was also served with a warning notice over its failure of governance and oversight of the care of patients, the management of incidents and the lack of least restrictive approaches to care.

Although the CQC said some improvements have been made more was needed.

A spokesperson for The Huntercombe Group, said: “We recognise that while improvements have been made to some aspects of the quality of care at our Maidenhead hospital, our progress hasn’t been wide-ranging or fast enough.

“We’re confident that our new senior leadership team will speed up this progress – they have been urgently implementing our action plan to provide our patients with the best possible care.”

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