Hospital to close with loss of 120 jobs

Tugay Akman, chief executive of Jessal group,

Tugay Akman, chief executive of Jeesal group, pictured in front of Cawston Park hospital, near Aylsham, when it reopened in 2010. - Credit: Colin Finch

Patients are facing relocation and 120 jobs will be lost after the shock closure of a Norfolk hospital for people with learning disabilities. 

The closure of Cawston Park hospital, near Aylsham, has been announced by its operator, Dereham-based Jeesal Group, after a long struggle to meet Care Quality Commission (CQC) standards. 

Tugay Akman, Jessal's chief executive, said he felt "disappointed and frustrated".

Mr Akman said: "We fought very hard. It's a small family firm and we put all we can into it."

The accident happened near Cawston Park. Pictures: David Bale

Cawston Park hospital, near Aylsham, is closing down. - Credit: David Bale

Mr Akman said 22 frontline staff - some of whom were already on furlough - were made redundant immediately after the decision to close was made.

He said the board had guaranteed to pay the rest of the hospital's 120-strong workforce, who were staying on until the remaining patients could be relocated.

Mr Akman said several clinical commissioning groups including Norfolk and Waveney and those based in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex were involved in finding new placements for the patients. 

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The hospital's troubles started after a CQC inspection in February 2019, when it was rated 'Requires Improvement' because of concerns over the way staff were dealing with patients in seclusion - for example, not ensuring they had required medical and nursing reviews.

At that time, the hospital had 46 patients. 

After inspections in June and July 2019 the rating fell to 'Inadequate', and the hospital was put into special measures after inspectors returned in November 2019. 

During that inspection, the CQC found an unbagged stool sample in a medication fridge on one of the wards, which had been there for more than two months.

The CQC then prevented Cawston Park from admitting new patients, and after another 'Inadequate' rating in April last year it served the hospital with a 'proposal to close' notice - meaning it had to either shut down or urgently improve. 

By October the rating was back up to 'Requires Improvement' and the CQC found the hospital was adequately staffed, but not enough had been done to lift it out of special measures. 

When the CQC served another 'proposal to close' last week, Mr Akman said the hospital's board felt it had run out of options. 

"It looks like we exhausted every single avenue," Mr Akman said. 

Mr Akman said, given the benefit of hindsight and the mounting costs of keeping the hospital going, they probably would have shut down a year ago after the first closure notice was served.

He said insurance was costing more than £2,500 per patient each month.