CQC places Huntercombe Group hospital in special measures

A hospital managed by The Huntercombe Group has been placed into special measures after inspectors found long-term segregation and use of physical restraint had negatively impacted patients.

Inspectors at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found Cedar House in Barham, Kent, was not always able to adequately meet the complex needs of patients.

An inspection report concluded patients had behaviours that were very challenging for staff to manage but the measures in place, such as long-term segregation and use of physical restraint, had impacted on their quality of life.

There were ‘high levels of restraint’ at the hospital, the report said. Staff who were unfamiliar with patients did not always follow de-escalation techniques before restraint was used.

It was revealed that, whilst there were always enough staff on each shift, there was a rising vacancy rate and increasing use of agency workers. Permanent staff members felt there were not enough workers who knew patients well enough to provide good quality care and meet patient needs.

The hospital, which offers assessment and treatment in a low secure environment for 39 patients across six wards, was rated as ‘inadequate’ for being safe and well-led, ‘requires improvement’ for being responsive and ‘good’ for being effective and caring.

The CQC’s head of hospital inspection (and lead for mental health) in the South, Karen Bennett-Wilson, said although Cedar House was not able to adequately meet the needs of all the patients, it did find staff generally treated patients with kindness and respected their dignity and privacy.

‘Staff knew how to recognise and report abuse should it occur and involved families and carers when they could. We have maintained close contact with the service and partner agencies since the inspection and will undertake further inspections, including unannounced visits to check that the necessary improvements have been made,’ Bennett-Wilson said.

A spokesperson for The Huntercombe Group said: ‘We are deeply disappointed Cedar House has been put into special measures after a recent CQC inspection resulted in the service receiving an overall rating of inadequate.’

‘At Cedar House we care for individuals with multiple and highly complex needs and our highest priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of the people in our care. We were pleased the CQC recognised in its inspection report that staff treat patients with kindness, they respect patients’ dignity and privacy, and that the service was rated as good for being effective and caring.

‘The CQC’s inspection has highlighted areas where improvements are needed in the service we deliver to patients, and we are fully committed to addressing these areas swiftly and improving our practices as we take the learnings from this inspection forward.’