CQC take action to close mental health unit after string of abusive incidents involving staff

An inspection that led to the closure of a mental health hospital found examples of unprofessional and abusive staff behaviour, including two incidents caught on CCTV in which doors were slammed or forced shut on a patient.

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report published on Wednesday said there had also been multiple examples where staff at Eldertree Lodge in Staffordshire (pictured) pulled or dragged a patient in an attempt to move them to the ward seclusion room.

The CQC said it had examined CCTV of six incidents at the 41-bed hospital in Ashley, run by Coveberry Limited for patients with a learning disability or autism, which were specific to one ward between February 27 and April 13.

The report was written after an unannounced inspection of the site on May 20 2021 and a follow-up visit on June 3 specifically to review CCTV footage.

The CQC acted to close the hospital in June after it said people using the service were at sustained risk of harm.

A previous inspection in March had rated the unit as inadequate, and the latest report found failings had not been addressed and people continued to receive unsafe care.

Commenting on the latest report, Debbie Ivanova, CQC deputy chief inspector for people with a learning disability and autistic people, said: “After our March inspection found people were at risk of harm at Eldertree Lodge, we supported Coveberry Limited to help it improve the care it provided its patients by identifying areas it urgently needed to address.

“Disappointingly, progress was not made.

“Our subsequent inspection, in May and June, found people continued to receive unsafe care.

“In some cases, people were subjected to abuse and interactions that lacked compassion, dignity or respect. This is unacceptable and people deserved better.

“Additionally, the environment was unhygienic and poorly maintained, as well as blighted by blind spots, which undermined staff observation of patients.

“The lack of progress between the two inspections did not assure us Coveberry could deliver the change it desperately needed to make at Eldertree Lodge. Consequently, we took action to close the hospital.

“Closing a service is a last resort, but we do not hesitate to act proportionally when people are at risk of harm or receiving poor care.”

The 18-page report stated: “Closed circuit television camera footage showed staff ill-treatment and abuse of patients.

“We were not assured the provider always referred staff to registered bodies for further investigation following incidents of concern.

“We saw multiple examples where staff pulled or dragged a patient in an attempt to move them to the ward seclusion room.

“We saw two examples where staff slammed or forced doors shut on a patient without regard for the potential of their actions to injure the patient.

“All incidents demonstrated ill-treatment or abuse and the use of inappropriate restrictive techniques by one or more of the staff members present.”

Inspectors also noted negative interactions from staff to patients, where staff became visibly angry, including a member of staff kicking a door open without due regard for a patient standing behind it.

In another example, eight members of staff surrounded a patient with what inspectors described as intimidating body language.

The report said of incidents captured on CCTV: “We saw examples of unprofessional and abusive staff behaviour to patients.

“This included staff becoming visibly angry or threatening towards a patient, staff crowded around and standing over a patient held in restraint and staff displaying negative body language.”

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