Child mental health hospital closed after damning inspection

The Huntercombe Hospital, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Huntercombe Hospital, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A psychiatric intensive care facility which provided child and adolescent mental health services has been closed down following a damning assessment by inspectors.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it found inpatients at Huntercombe Hospital in Buxton, Norwich, had access to dangerous items which they could harm themselves with.

It also found the hospital was not protecting young people from carrying out acts of self-harm or aggression, and had not learned lessons from previous serious incidents that had taken place.

The hospital provided care to children aged from five to 18 with a range of mental health disorders and who were detained under the Mental Health Act.

Staff were not always found to treat the young people there with dignity and respect.

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The CQC said it found 'significant concerns' during its inspection over eight days in November and December last year, which was carried out as a result of concerns about how the service was being run.

The commission said it took immediate action to protect those using the service, including enforcement action to remove its registration.

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The Huntercombe Group then closed the service and patients were found alternative care by NHS England.

CQC deputy chief inspector for hospitals (lead for mental health) Paul Lelliott said: 'Our inspection found a service that was not effectively managing risks to the young people in its care or protecting them from carrying out acts of self-harm or aggression.

'Staff failed to manage the safety of the hospital's physical environment too and, as a result, young people had access to dangerous items which they could harm themselves with.

'Although staff reacted to incidents on the wards, they did not take action to prevent incidents occurring or escalating.

'Additionally the hospital had not learned lessons from serious incidents or taken effective action to reduce the risks of similar events happening again.

'Staff failed to report some incidents and managers did not review or investigate all serious incidents robustly, openly and transparently.

'When the provider did investigate an incident, it did not take effective action and, despite giving repeated assurances that it had put measures in place, serious incidents of a similar nature continued to happen.

'There were insufficient numbers of skilled and experienced staff on wards to meet the needs of patients, we found staff did not always treat the young people with dignity and respect and the ward environment was unclean.

'This is why, following our inspection, we took urgent action to restrict the service and protect the young people using it.

'The provider subsequently decided it would close the service and all those using it were found suitable alternative care.'

Another hospital in the group - Huntercombe Hospital in Stafford - was placed in special measures by the CQC in 2016 after inspectors observed a youngster harming themselves in front of a member of staff.

They found some patients had 'limited' access to psychological therapy due to ongoing staff vacancies, while they noticed there was an overuse of restraint.

A spokesman for the Huntercombe Group said: 'The closure was based on a combination of factors.

'The Huntercombe Group had been aware that the service was not meeting the standards that we expect to provide and whilst there had been improvements, there was still more to do to meet CQC requirements, as confirmed by the CQC inspection.

'The Huntercombe Group takes very seriously our responsibilities as a care provider and in consideration of these factors we entered into discussions with NHS England and the CQC about closing the service.

'The wellbeing of the people in our care is our priority and we worked collaboratively with case managers from NHS England and NHS Wales to ensure that patients and their families were supported while arrangements were made for alternative care provision that is appropriate to their needs.'

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