Learning disability hospital placed in special measures over ‘serious risks to patient safety’

A hospital for men with learning disabilities has been placed in special measures after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) identified “serious risks to patient safety”.

The CQC said it also suspended its current rating of “good” for caring for Cygnet Woodside, Bradford, West Yorkshire, following a focused inspection in September.

The commission said it carried out the unannounced inspection following allegations of abuse by staff towards a patient, which are subject to an ongoing police investigation.

The hospital said it was “disappointed” with the CQC’s assessment, stressing that the inspection was triggered by its own management notifying the commission of a concern it had identified.

It said the report “does not provide an entirely accurate representation” of the hospital.

Dr Kevin Cleary, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: “Our latest inspection of Cygnet Woodside found that the hospital was not ensuring its patients’ safety.”

Dr Cleary (pictured) added: “The service showed warning signs that increased the likelihood of a closed culture developing. This would have put people at serious risk of coming to harm if we didn’t take action.”

He said care was compromised because there was not always the right number or skill level of staff looking after patients.

Dr Cleary continued: “We have told leaders at this service what they must do to improve and will continue to monitor Cygnet Woodside closely. Should we see insufficient improvement, CQC will not hesitate to take further action to keep people safe.”

The CQC said that senior leaders were not always fully aware of concerns in the service and “this included the concern relating to the allegations of abuse toward a patient which is being investigated by police”.

It said that inspectors found a strong odour of urine, damaged walls and peeling paint on wards, although they were told a refurbishment programme is due to be completed by January 2021.

The CQC rated the safety, effectiveness and whether the service was well-led as “inadequate”, with the responsiveness of services rated as “requires improvement”. This gave an overall rating of “inadequate” for Cygnet Woodside.

Cygnet Woodside provides care for up to nine male adults with a primary diagnosis of learning disability and at the time of the inspection there were eight patients using this service.

A spokeswoman for Cygnet Woodside said: “We are disappointed with the CQC’s assessment and the approach to this inspection, which was triggered by our hospital manager promptly notifying the CQC and other relevant agencies of a concern we identified internally.

“Whilst we acknowledge there are areas for improvement, which we are taking the necessary action to address, we believe the CQC’s interpretation of the issues following their inspection in September was disproportionate and the reporting unnecessarily emotive and, we believe, does not provide an entirely accurate representation of Cygnet Woodside.

“We have already taken the opportunity of sharing the report with families and carers of our patients who are always our priority. We are reassured the response we have received from them has been generally very positive about the care and treatment we are providing to their loved ones.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with the families, our commissioners and the CQC in the best interests of those in our care.”

In relation to the ongoing police investigation, the spokeswoman said: “The police investigation relates to a single safeguarding concern that was raised against a member of staff, which we reported to the police.

“The individual concerned was immediately suspended, along with one other staff member who did not report the alleged incident in line with our zero-tolerance policy on abuse. Since this is now a police matter, we cannot comment further.”

Jackie O’Sullivan, director of communications, advocacy and activism at learning disability charity Mencap, said: “The CQC’s concerns about patient safety at yet another inpatient unit highlights the dangers that these modern-day asylums pose to people with a learning disability.

“There are more than 2,000 people with a learning disability and/or autism still stuck in these units despite Government promises to transform the type of care they receive.

“We need immediate action from the Government and NHS England to ensure the safety of those who are still locked away.

“Ultimately the right support and housing in the community desperately needs to be developed to stop admissions in the first place and get people out of inpatient units. People deserve to live in their own homes, not in hospitals.”

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