Health watchdog carries out inspection into staffing levels at St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton

St Andrews Hospital, Northampton. ENGNNL00120130108083225
St Andrews Hospital, Northampton. ENGNNL00120130108083225

A health watchdog has issued a report into staffing levels at a mental healthcare facility in Northampton.

Healthwatch Northamptonshire, an independent ‘consumer champion’ for health and social care, carried out an’ inspection of St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton in August.

St Andrew’s Healthcare deals with more than 700 patients suffering from wide range of mental health illnesses, including those at the most serious end of the spectrum.

Of the 44 patients spoken to by Healthwatch, 79 percent said they felt safe and secure. A total of 13 percent said they never felt safe or secure. According to the report, 12 patients mentioned staffing issues without prompting.

A report of the visit states: “Comments about the impact of staffing levels from the patients who referred to their perceptions of low staffing levels included views that staffing levels are putting patient safety at risk.

“Patients who talked about low staffing levels said this has a knock on effect on the quality of care including the ability to increase their level of relative freedom, for example being able to go out in the grounds of St Andrew’s with a staff member escorting them.

“We formed a view that staffing levels impacted on some patients’ sense of safety based on the responses to the questionnaire and the comments from around a quarter of the patients we spoke to who commented on staffing levels. While 79 per cent always or often felt safe and secure, we would assume that the figure should be 100 per cent of patients always feeling safe and secure.”

The results of the Healthwatch inspection showed that 13 per cent of patients said they never felt safe and secure.

Healthwatch also found that there are a high proportion of “relatively inexperienced” and unqualified staff meaning that patients are not always receiving the clinical expertise and knowledge.

The report of the visit also states that some of the older wards at the facility are not of good quality.

Healthwatch has made a number of recommendations to St Andrew’s including working with patients to look at how the ward environments are rigorously maintained at a “reasonable and comfortable level” and ensuring that robust efforts are made to improve the environment of wards which are scheduled for closure for as long as patients remain on those wards.

In response, Gil Baldwin, Chief Executive Officer at St Andrew’s Healthcare said all employees were committed to supporting patients.

He said: “Caring for our patients is always our foremost concern and we are confident in the quality of the highly specialist services that we provide.

“We are proud of the impact that we have on many peoples’ lives, with nine in ten St Andrew’s patients discharged to more local or less secure environments.

“It is, however, our approach to continuously look for new ways to provide ever better care and we welcome all views on how we might achieve this, whether from our patients, regulatory bodies or external organisations.

“As part of this process, we were pleased to facilitate Healthwatch Northamptonshire’s first visit to a secure mental health facility such as ours. We are also grateful to Anne Beales of Together for mental wellbeing for her technical input into the development of their pilot questionnaire and processes.

“With regards to the resulting recommendations, we were pleased to note that the report by Healthwatch Northamptonshire reinforces our existing plans in many areas, including patient security, staffing provision, care plans and complaint handling.”