Children and adolescent wards fail inspection

Mental health wards for children and young people at Priory Ticehurst House in Wadhurst, East Sussex, have failed an inspection report by the regulator.

Care Quality Commission inspectors visited Keystone and Upper Court wards as part of a focused inspection in September following concerns raised by families, external agencies and members of the public.

These included poor staffing levels, high use of agency staff, inadequate medicines management and the number of incidents.

It was rated ‘inadequate’ for being safe and well-led. Ratings for other services provided at Priory Ticehurst House remain unchanged.

Inspectors said action had not been taken in Upper Court to reduce risks the Priory had identified in January.

They said governance of incidents was inadequate, including a lack of management review, inconsistencies in information recorded and inaccurate recording of risk levels.

Employees said that learning from incidents was not shared, while staff morale on Upper Court was low. Some staff said they felt unable to raise concerns without fear of retribution, the report said.

Kevin Cleary, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals (and lead for mental health), said: ‘At time of the inspection, staff lacked an understanding of what was required to provide a good quality service to children and young people who require a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).’

The service was issued with a warning notice that required the provider to make immediate improvements.

Inspectors returned to carry out an unannounced inspection on 12 December and found the provider had improved systems and processes and met requirements of the warning notice. But Cleary added: ‘It will take time for the improved processes to demonstrate the sustained improvements but we will continue to monitor the hospital closely. If we find improvements are not fully embedded and sustained we will not hesitate to take any further action required.’

A hospital spokesman said: ‘Despite significant investment, we continue to experience considerable staffing challenges on the wards due to well-documented national shortages particularly in relation to experienced CAMHS nurses and psychiatrists.

‘However, since the inspection in September, we have taken immediate and significant steps to address the concerns raised, and the very positive re-inspection feedback from the CQC a week ago shows we are now working in a way that demonstrates improvements in all areas including in relation to incident management, governance and clinical leadership.

‘Ensuring young patients with complex conditions receive the best treatment is our overriding priority, and we remain confident of restoring the CAMHS service to its previous “good” rating in line with the overall rating for the rest of the hospital.’