The Care Quality Commission has identified major problems at yet another independent sector hospital delivering mental health care services to the NHS.

St Andrew’s Healthcare Adolescents service has 11 wards and is registered to accommodate 99 patients, although there were only 77 patients at the service during the latest inspection. The hospital has halted all new admissions to the unit while it works out how to respond.

St Andrew’s is a charity, established in 1838, and depends upon NHS placements and funding for almost all of its income.

The service in Northamptonshire has been rated as Inadequate and put into special measures following a Care Quality Commission inspection. If the management do not address the CQC’s concerns within six months it will take action to begin the process of preventing the provider from operating the service.

The service is now rated as Inadequate overall, and is also Inadequate on the rating for being safe, caring and well-led.

However it is rather strange to see it also rated as Good for being ‘effective and responsive’.

CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals (and lead for mental health), Dr Paul Lelliott, said:

“We were particularly concerned about how the service responds to patients whose behaviour staff find challenging. Staff did not follow best practice when using seclusion and long-term segregation. This is an issue that we have raised with the provider on 12 separate occasions following previous inspections of the various hospitals that they manage.”

“Staff did not always treat patients with dignity, compassion or respect. The majority of seclusion rooms did not have basic furnishings such as a bed, pillow, blanket or mattress.”

Even though the building was only opened in 2017, the CQC found the physical environment was not always safe.

“There were sharp edges on door frames in seclusion rooms and extra care suites, blind spots in seclusion rooms and pieces of exposed sharp metal. All of these posed a risk to patients.”

The service failed to ensure that shifts were fully staffed, and managers had not filled 13% of shifts between 1 and 31 March 2019. Managers had also used bank and agency staff to cover 47% of shifts.

“We have told St Andrew’s Healthcare that it must take immediate action to address the problems we identified.

“We will continue to monitor the service closely and if urgent improvements are not made to ensure people are safe, we will take action to prevent the provider from operating this service”

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