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Mental health hospital where patients were secluded in unfurnished, unsafe rooms, rated inaequate by watchdog

CQC has given 12 previous warnings about unjustified use of segregation where staff found patients' behaviour too challenging

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Thursday 06 June 2019 06:30 BST
Report comes amid calls for UK wide review of seclusion and inpatient care for people with mental health and learning diabilities
Report comes amid calls for UK wide review of seclusion and inpatient care for people with mental health and learning diabilities (Getty/iStock)

Vulnerable patients at one of England’s largest charity-run mental health hospitals were kept in unsafe seclusion rooms for excessive amounts of time and without beds, blankets or pillows, a damning report has found.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated adolescent mental health services at St Andrew’s Healthcare hospital in Northampton ”inadequate”.

It has given the charity six months to turn around services at FitzRoy House, a specialist centre for up to 100 young people with mental health, learning disabilities and autism, or it will lose its registration.

Inspectors found “the majority of seclusion rooms” lacked basic furnishings, and examples of patients’ dignity not being respected.

This included an occasion where a female patient's clothes were changed in the presence of male staff.

The CQC said there were safety risks posed by sharp edges in seclusion rooms, CCTV blind spots and lapses in checks on cutlery which could cause patients harm.

“We were particularly concerned about how the service responds to patients whose behaviour staff find challenging,” said CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals Dr Paul Lelliott after finding multiple examples of patients kept in seclusion longer than necessary without adequate reviews.

This is the third inspection of the service in three years and Dr Lelliott said “in some important respects the safety of care had deteriorated”.

"On one occasion, staff did not respect a patient’s privacy and dignity when changing her clothing.” Dr Lelliott added. “While female staff were present, there were also male staff there at the time. It was the inspection team’s view that this was uncaring, undignified and disrespectful to the patient."

The report comes after concerns about the use of restraint and seclusion at the hospital in the wake of a patient Ayla Haines trying to kill herself by swallowing a toothbrush.

There have also been calls for a England-wide review of the use of long term seclusion and inpatient care for people with learning disabilities after revelations of abuse at privately run Whorlton Hall Hospital.

The inspection of St Andrews Healthcare also found some examples of outstanding care, including a wide range of facilities and support for LGBTQ+ patients and staff from diverse backgrounds.

The charity said it addressed many of the safety issues identified at FitzRoy House and had closed the service to new patients temporarily while it made changes, including a review of seclusion and segregation across its sites.

“We deeply regret that we have fallen below the standards we aim to uphold, and those expected by the CQC,” Katie Fisher, chief executive, St Andrew’s Healthcare.

“We are confident that when the CQC returns to inspect the St Andrew’s Healthcare Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in the next six months, they will see significant improvement that will be reflected in an improved rating.”

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