Suffolk mental health hospital placed in special measures

St John’s House Credit: ITV Anglia

Inspectors have placed a mental health hospital in Suffolk in special measures after an unannounced visit.

The Care Quality Commission says it acted after finding St John’s House, in Palgrave, near Diss, had not ensured its patients’ safety or dignity.

The 49-bed hospital is run by Partnerships in Care, part of the Priory group. It cares for adults living with learning disabilities and associated mental health issues.

Inspectors say they visited in December in response to concerns regarding patient safety, incident management, staffing and the use of restraint.

Their report found that risks to patient safety, dignity and wellbeing were not always well managed, and that some interactions demonstrated elements of abuse.

The CQC says staff had physically restrained patients, when they presented a danger to themselves and others, before other methods of de-escalation had been exhausted.

The report added some instances of restraint were disproportionate and used unauthorised techniques, including when a patient was pushed to the floor. This compromised patient dignity, damaged staff morale and caused physical injuries.

Inspectors also found areas used by patients who had been secluded had ligature risks and blind spots, compromising people at risk of self-harming. They say this issue was compounded because observations were not always undertaken correctly, including at least five instances captured by closed-circuit television where staff were asleep while they should have been monitoring patients.

The CQC says the service was short-staffed, heavily dependent on agency workers, and it lacked essential equipment, including for resuscitation.

Following the inspection, CQC rated the service Inadequate and placed it in special measures.

It was previously rated Good, following an inspection in 2018.

St John's House Credit: ITV Anglia

Priory Healthcare, which runs St John's, told ITV Anglia they not accept this standard of care in our services and have taken immediate action to deliver improvements at St John’s House.

The company says senior management are overseeing the implementation of a comprehensive action plan to address all issues identified in the report, and they have already seen significant improvements in training compliance, the physical environment, upholding patient dignity, incident reporting and care planning.

Priory Healthcare added that the service is now fully compliant with the required infection prevention and control procedures and we are committed to delivering all required improvements as swiftly as possible adding patient safety remains their absolute priority.