Inspection of mental health wards in Essex finds staff 'struggling' and 'burned out'

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Charlie Frost

Urgent action has been taken to keep young people safe on three mental health wards for children and adolescents in Essex following a surprise inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

The CQC made the visit after serious concerns were raised about the wards at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.

They inspected all three wards of the children and adolescent mental health service; Larkwood ward, Longview ward and Poplar unit, unannounced in May and June this year.

"Staff told us because they were short staffed, they felt overworked and stretched. One staff member told us the staff team were struggling and broken," the report went on.

Another staff member told inspectors they were 'burned out'.

  • Watch an interview with CQC's Stuart Dunn, Head of Hospital Inspection

CQC inspectors said that patient observations were not always carried out at prescribedintervals and "as a result of staff poor observation practice patients had beenharmed".

The report added: "Staff missed opportunities to prevent or minimise harm and did not always act to prevent or reduce risks."

The CQC has lowered the overall rating of the service from outstanding to inadequate and has taken urgent action to keep young people safe by placing conditions on the trust's registration.

Conditions demand that the trust must not admit any new patients without consent from the CQC.

Paul Scott, CEO, Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust Credit: EPUT

The Chief executive officer of Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust Paul Scott said the trust took the CQC's findings very seriously.

"We took immediate action to make sustainable improvements to our services for children and their families," he said.

"These include increasing staffing levels, delivering ongoing coaching and mentoring for our staff in observing our patients and engaging with them and strengtheningclinical and operational leadership," Mr Scott said.

"Patient safety is our highest priority, and we continue to work closely with the CQC and our partners to improve standards and ensure every patient has access to the best care possible," he added.

This latest report comes three months after the EPUT was fined £1.5 million for repeated failures which led to the deaths of 11 patients.

Matthew Leahy was one of the patients who died on the mental health unit that was supposed to be keeping him safe.

He was just 20-years-old when he was found dead in the Linden Centre in Chelmsford in 2012.

His mother, Melanie is one of a number of parents who have been campaigning for justice for more than a decade.

She said this latest CQC report showed there were still very serious problems in the care for young people in Essex.

Melanie Leahy said the parents wanted "accountability and truth" and that would only come with an statutory public inquiry into the history and state of Essex's mental health services.