Cygnet mental health service placed into special measures

Cygnet Hospital Colchester has been rated as ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and placed into special measures.

Inspectors found that the provider’s system for assessing and admitting patients was not robust to ensure adequate management and monitoring of patient risk. Staff had admitted two out of 15 patients to the service who needed a higher level of care than was available.

It was also found that staff had not received regular training, supervision and appraisals, and had not had specialist training for patients with personality disorders.

The service has been told it must make a number of improvements, including carrying out a reassessment of risks and needs for existing patients, developing care and risk management plans, acting in a timely manner to address issues of concern for patient safety, and ensuring that wards are staffed appropriately.

The healthcare regulator also told the service staff must have the required qualifications, skills and experience.

The mental health service admits adults with mental health problems and provides both acute care and rehabilitation. It also has a ward for people with a learning disability or autism.

The CQC inspected the hospital in April and undertook a further review in May, which resulted in the watchdog having serious concerns.

The service is now rated as ‘inadequate’ overall and for being safe, effective and well-led, ‘requires improvement’ for being caring and ‘good’ for being responsive.

‘The care provided at Cygnet Hospital Colchester fell well below the standard that people should expect to receive,’ said Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals (and lead for mental health) at the CQC. ‘Staff at the hospital did not assess or manage risks adequately and risks to patients’ safety had increased since our last inspection in November 2018.’

‘The two wards that we inspected on this occasion had too few permanent staff to provide safe and high-quality care,’ Lelliott continued, ‘the provider made high use of agency staff. Despite this, about 30% of shifts had fewer than the number required for safe care and treatment. Also, the provider had not ensured that agency staff providing care or treatment to patients had the qualifications, competence, skills and experience to do so safely.’

A Cygnet Health Care spokesperson said: ‘Following the CQC’s inspection in November last year we took a number of steps to address the issues raised, including updating the employee training programme and putting a refurbishment plan in place.

‘We note the additional issues raised in the CQC’s most recent report, based on the inspection in April of this year, and we have developed a comprehensive action plan to immediately address these concerns.

‘As part of this improvement programme, we are reviewing our governance arrangements to ensure a robust incident management process that fosters learning of lessons for all staff. We will also be reviewing our staffing arrangements and are working hard to eliminate the use of temporary workers.’