Improving picture at troubled hospital

The Cawston Park private special psychiatric hospital, which was at the centre of a probe into financial irregularities, is getting better according to a new report by health watchdogs.

A Norfolk mental hospital at the centre of a probe into financial irregularities is getting better, according to a new report by health watchdogs.

The Cawston Park private special psychiatric hospital near Aylsham hit the headlines when chairman David Prior was arrested, then cleared, during a still-ongoing investigation into an alleged multi-million pound fraud.

But the hospital has also been battling to make improvements after a damning report by the Healthcare Commission in September 2006, which found that standards were not being met in 25 out of 54 areas of assessment.

Failures included unsafe handling of medicines, the way aggressive patients were dealt with, staffing levels which gave “rise for con-cern”, cleanliness, and protection of patients from harm, including suicide.

A 28-year-old schizophrenic man with a history of drug misuse hang-ed himself by a dressing gown cord from a bathroom door in April 2005.

A new report by the commission however says there has been “significant progress” with the facilities, levels of cleanliness, risk management, recruitment, training, handling of aggression, patient involvement and complaints.

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It showed that just one out of 48 assessments failed to meet the standards - about patients receiving care from appropriately recruited, trained and qualified staff - and that had since been rectified.

Thirty-one areas met the standard, while 16 almost met it - meaning there were minor shortfalls rather than major deficiencies.

Chief operating officer for the hospital Richard McKenzie, who was appointed to the new post last autumn, said he was “delighted at the positive nature of this latest report. It reflects the quality of clinic care we provide.

“We at Cawston Park are proud of the advances we have made and have not allowed the difficult circumstances of the ongoing police investigation into alleged financial irregularities to distract us from providing the best possible care for patients.”

Cawston Park is run by Chancellor Care, where Mr Prior is non-executive chairman. After being cleared of any involvement in the financial problems, he returned to his role as chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital board, having stepped down for three months during the probe.

Chief executive Andrew Breeze, company secretary Dominic Wilson and psychiatrist Dr Simon Baker, who were also arrested and are on police bail, are still at the centre of the investigation however - a spokesman for Chancellor confirmed last night - adding that the inquiries were continuing and a decision on the outcome was awaited from the police.