Adolescent mental health hospital's rating suspended

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has suspended the ratings for Huntercombe Hospital Maidenhead, and told the provider it must make urgent improvements, following inspections in February and March.

Huntercombe Hospital Maidenhead, based in Taplow, is a specialist child and adolescent mental health inpatient service, including psychiatric intensive care units.

On March 5, 2021, Huntercombe Young People Ltd took over the running of the hospital from Huntercombe (No.12) Ltd.

Under the previous provider, the hospital was rated as inadequate overall and CQC imposed conditions limiting the number of young people they could admit to the intensive care unit.

Following an inspection in July, CQC found that some improvements had been made and the hospital was rated ‘requires improvement’ overall.

Conditions remained in place to allow the new provider sufficient time to continue to make improvements.

In February this year, inspectors returned to the hospital to check on the progress.

They found improvements had been made to the environment and staff training in relation to eating disorders, as had the supervision of staff. Staff morale had also improved.

Further improvements were needed, including improving the environment on Tamar ward and ensuring all staff treated young people with respect.

The previous conditions, restricting the provider to only admitting a maximum of 22 young people across the intensive care units, remained in place.

Then, a serious incident took place at the hospital which resulted in the death of a young person. This is currently under investigation by the police.

The CQC then undertook a further unannounced inspection in March, specifically to check that young people in the intensive care unit were being cared for safely.

The inspection body had concerns that resulted in it serving the provider with a warning notice which required it to take ‘urgent action’.

The CQC took the decision to suspend the ratings of the service until further notice.

The body suspends a rating if it identifies significant concerns that lead it to re-consider its previous rating – to remain suspended until it has investigated the concerns or re-inspected the service.

Karen Bennett-Wilson, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said: “Fundamentally, the hospital did not have enough competent, skilled staff who knew the young people and how to care for them.

“We saw that new and temporary staff were being asked to carry out observations of young people without adequate training, or a proper understanding of what they were being asked to do and why observations were so important.

“As a result, staff sometimes left young people unobserved and at times had to ask the young person how they should support them. This is completely unacceptable.”

Now the CQC will ‘very closely’ monitor the service to make sure the provider addresses these concerns ‘as a matter of urgency’.

“If we are not satisfied, we will not hesitate to take further enforcement action to keep people safe,” said Ms Bennett-Wilson.

Huntercombe Group joined Active Care Group following a merger in December 2021. A spokesperson for Active Care Group said: “We are disappointed with the Care Quality Commission’s findings (CQC) following its visit in March, but we look forward to a full inspection in due course.

“The safety and wellbeing of our young patients always has been our top priority and will remain so as we take learnings from this inspection forward and do everything we can to address the recommendations.

“We were pleased the CQC acknowledged the many improvements we have made since its full inspection in July 2021.

“These include increasing the number of therapy staff, improving the area for young people who need to be fed via a tube, increasing the number of communal spaces and updating the way we manage ligature risks.”

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