Mental health hospital in Suffolk closed after 'unacceptable' care

A mental health hospital in Suffolk has been closed after inspectors found 'unacceptable' care of patients.
A mental health hospital in Suffolk has been closed after inspectors found 'unacceptable' care of patients. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A mental health hospital in Suffolk has been closed after inspectors found it was failing to protect patients from harm and abuse.

St John's House in Palgrave, near Diss, was previously rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

A further inspection of the 49-bed hospital found the care was "unacceptable" and "insufficient progress had been made regarding patient safety".

The company that runs the hospital, Partnerships in Care, part of the Priory Group, has now decided to close the site.

St John's House cares for adults living with learning disabilities and associated mental health issues. Credit: ITV News Anglia

  • What did the Care Quality Commission say?

Stuart Dunn, CQC head of inspection for mental health and community services, said: "Our latest inspection of St John's House found an unacceptable service where insufficient improvements had been made to protect patients from harm and abuse and the number of safety incidents remained high.

"Staff weren't responding appropriately to patients who were self-harming, with one patient not being sent to hospital quickly enough after swallowing a foreign object, despite complaining of abdominal pain.

"We reviewed CCTV footage and found staff were sometimes asleep when they should have been observing patients to make sure they were safe. This was all the more concerning as we identified this as a concern during the previous two inspections of this service, demonstrating a lack of improvement to keep patients safe.

"Incidents of restraint remained high and not all staff had the right training to carry it out safely. In addition, staff were not following hospital policy when using soft handcuffs with patients during safety incidents.

"Services must inform CQC and other statutory bodies when they identify safeguarding concerns such as these to ensure patient safety. This service's continued failure to refer all instances of abuse and thoroughly investigate concerns has put its patients at prolonged risk of harm.

"Following our inspection where additional enforcement action was taken, the provider made the decision to close this service."   

  • What did the Priory Group who run the hospital say?

A spokesman for the hospital said: “Following discussion with NHSEI, we notified the CQC on 23rd July 2021 that we had taken the decision to close St John’s House.

"This step has not been taken lightly but we consider that, given the wholly exceptional circumstances, it is the most appropriate course of action.

"Despite our best efforts and substantial investment, St John’s House continued to suffer from significant recruitment difficulties stemming from the nationwide shortage of specialist nursing staff for learning disability services.

"As such, it had become increasingly challenging to meet the needs of the people we look after and over the last 2 months we have worked diligently with all stakeholders to find appropriate alternative provision for service users.

"There are now only 2 service users remaining at the service and we expect alternative provision to be found for them later this month.

 "We fully support the transforming care initiative, which enables more people with a learning disability to live in the community with the right support and close to home.

"In line with this approach, we will continue to work with NHSEI to change the way we deliver our learning disability services in order to provide the most appropriate form of care for the people we look after.”