CQC logoAn independent hospital for children and young people with mental ill health in Stafford has been put into special measures by England’s chief inspector of hospitals after an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated it inadequate.

The decision was made after an unannounced inspection in April of Huntercombe Hospital - Stafford, which provides child and adolescent mental health inpatient services for up to 39 young people aged 8 to 18 years, found that there was no effective system in place to safeguard the wellbeing of the young people at the hospital. The inspection came after serious concerns highlighted to the commission.

A following announced inspection in May found further causes for serious concern regarding the staffing, management and clinical practice at the hospital.

CQC inspectors found Huntercombe Hospital – Stafford was inadequate for being safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, Dr Paul Lelliott, said: “We found a number of serious problems when we inspected the services run by Huntercombe Hospital - Stafford and have subsequently placed the service into special measures.   

“We were concerned that the safety of young people using the service was compromised due to insufficient staffing levels, restrictive interventions, poor physical health monitoring and a poorly trained and supervised workforce. 

“Personal searches were ineffective in preventing young people from obtaining contraband items to use to harm themselves. In addition, staff did not store medication securely in all areas.   

“Staff often used physical restraint as a first, rather than last, response to a patient’s distress. Staff did not accurately document restraints and failed to offer follow up care to the young people involved. Also, situations that could lead to aggressive or disturbed behaviour were not being routinely de-escalated. 

“Feedback from young people and their carers was largely negative and reflected a hospital that did not take into account the individual needs of those using the service. Young people were not involved in care planning and care plans were not shared with them. Some carers described staff behaviour as punitive.

“Despite being aware of the safety concerns at the hospital, the executive team within the wider Huntercombe group did not act or respond at the pace required to address the issues in a timely or decisive manner.  

“We have maintained close contact with the service and partner agencies since the inspection and will undertake further inspections, including unannounced visits to check that the necessary improvements have been made.”