Patients 'assaulted and mimicked behind their backs by staff' at failing Northamptonshire mental health hospital

Damning inspection report says risks to patient safety, dignity and wellbeing 'were not always well managed'

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 2:30 pm

Patients at a failing Northamptonshire mental health hospital were assaulted and mimicked by staff, according to a damning inspection report published yesterday (Wednesday, April 21).

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) made an unannounced visit to Broomhill in Spratton over three days in February after it reported the abuse to the health watchdog.

Inspectors found risks to patient safety, dignity and wellbeing 'were not always well managed' at the 99-bed hospital on Holdenby Road, which has been in special measures since May last year.

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Broomhill mental health hospital on Holdenby Road, Spratton. Photo: Google

The health watchdog has given the operator, St Matthew's Healthcare, a raft of improvements it must make before its next visit.

A statement from St Matthew's board of directors states: "We acknowledge the identified shortfalls and continue to work very closely with the CQC and local CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] towards a focused action plan to improve our services.

"The safeguarding alert in relation to the assault referred to was reported by us to CQC as a part of our transparency with all regulatory bodies.

"We have a zero-tolerance position where safeguarding is concerned, and the employee involved was dismissed immediately.

"Our staff have worked under immense challenges during these Covid times, and we have invested extra resources to ensure a positive outcome at our next rated inspection which we hope will be carried out in the not-too-distant future."

Broomhill, which cares for working-aged people experiencing chronic mental illness, had not embedded measures to protect patients from abuse, according to the CQC.

A patient had been assaulted by a member of staff twice, however action was impeded as a safeguarding referral was not made after the first incident.

While another patient, who had been assaulted by a worker, told inspectors of two further staff to patient assaults, carried out by the same employee.

The report states St Matthew's took immediate steps to address these safeguarding concerns once reported, completed investigations and acted where staff disciplinary action was required, including the dismissal of staff.

"Staff did not always respect patients’ privacy and dignity," the report reads.

"We were also informed by a patient of an incident where staff had been laughing at and mimicking a patient with mobility difficulties behind their back.

"Two patients described being threatened by other patients. Two patients told us that staff did not always give patients help, emotional support and advice when they needed it.

"One patient stated that the first course of action is always medication, and that staff were not available for one-to-one time when required."

Inspectors also found that when rapid tranquilisation was used to calm patients when they presented risk to themselves and others, it was not always followed-up with adequate physical health observations.

Broomhill was 'reliant' on agency workers who did not know patients or always have the right training while concerns were also raised that staff used languages other than English in front of patients, the report reads.

"Factors behind these failings include a lack of oversight from leaders and a failure to ensure timely reviews following patient safety incidents," a CQC spokesperson said.

However, wards were clean and suitable, steps were taken to protect people from coronavirus and staff supported patients to give feedback on their treatment.

The improvements needed at Broomhill include protecting patients from verbal, physical and psychological abuse, treating patients with compassion and kindness and always using English in front of them.

Staff must also undertake physical health checks following rapid tranquillisation and St Matthew's must ensure it has enough staff who know the patients and have the right training.

Workers need to manage medicines correctly, keep patient records up-to-date and accessible, report safeguarding incidents quickly and the provider must ensure adequate governance and oversight to identify non-compliance in all aspects of care and treatment.