Northamptonshire mental health wards still rated 'requires improvement' in 'safe' category after concerns raised

The care watchdog inspected after concerns were raised about ligature risks, however inspectors found these concerns were not substantiated, but other issues were found
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A number of Northamptonshire mental health wards for adults of working age and psychiatric intensive care have been rated ‘requires improvement’ in the ‘safe’ category, after the care watchdog inspected.

The wards, which are part of, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s (NHFT), were subjected to an unannounced Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection on August 9 and 10 this year.

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The inspection came about after CQC received information of concern about the safety and quality of the service with regards to ligature risks.

NHFT has been rated as 'requires improvement' in the 'safe' category for its mental health wards. (File picture).NHFT has been rated as 'requires improvement' in the 'safe' category for its mental health wards. (File picture).
NHFT has been rated as 'requires improvement' in the 'safe' category for its mental health wards. (File picture).

CQC says this included feedback from people using the service, local agencies, and incidents reported by the trust, which included an injury to someone during a restraint, and a suicide on one of the inpatient wards.

However, the care watchdog says these concerns were not substantiated during the inspection, but other issues were found in relation to risk management. Due to these concerns, the ‘safe’ category has maintained its ‘requires improvement’ rating.

To improve, inspectors said: “The trust must ensure that risk assessments, reviews, and care plans relating to risk are easily accessible, comprehensive and accurate.

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“The trust must ensure that all clinical staff are trained in the safeguarding of children and young people, to a level 3 in line with national guidance.”

Inspectors also recommended that the trust should ensure wards are decorated regularly, ensure staff, patients and carers are involved in discharge planning, consider how patients’ risks and recorded and located, ensure that ‘read and sign’ sheets are dated and action and continue to reduce the number of prone restraints across the service.

However, the report also says: “Staff knew about any potential ligature anchor points and mitigated the risks to keep patients safe. All wards had recent ligature risk assessments and ligature risk reduction plans.”

The care watchdog also highlighted a number of positives, including patients describing staff as “kind and supportive”. The report says that most patients felt there was enough staff on duty and that staff managed incidents well. All three carers inspectors spoke to also said they felt the care provided was safe.

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Angela Hillery, chief executive of the trust, said: “We are a learning organisation and we value all feedback in all forms. We understand why the CQC came to inspect our services and as always we welcome their review, guidance and feedback – both positive and constructive.

"We will work closely with the CQC alongside our staff, service users, carers and stakeholders to address identified areas for improvement.”

A NHFT spokesman added: “NHFT remains committed to enabling a positive working environment for all our people and providing compassionate, safe, high-quality care for all.”

During the August inspection, ‘well-led’ was not re-rated and remains rated as ‘good’. ‘Effective’, ‘caring’ and ‘responsive’ were not inspected and remain rated as ‘good’. The overall rating for the service also remains rated as ‘good’.

The overall rating for Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust remains rated as ‘outstanding’.

The full CQC report can be found here.