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Hospital closed after service users found to be ‘at sustained risk of harm’

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published a report detailing the reasons behind its decision to close a hospital for people with a learning disability or autism after it found service users were at sustained risk of harm.

CQC inspected Eldertree Lodge in Ashley, run by Coveberry Limited, in May and June to determine whether the service had addressed failings it highlighted following an inspection in March.

Following the previous inspection, the hospital was rated inadequate, required to provide regular progress reports to CQC and barred from admitting new patients.

The latest inspection found the failings had not been addressed and people continued to receive unsafe care. There were also instances where people had been subjected to abuse.

Due to the continued serious issues, CQC rated the hospital inadequate for a second time.

CQC also removed Coveberry’s registration to provide inpatient treatment and high-dependency rehabilitation services at Eldertree Lodge. All services providing regulated healthcare need CQC registration for the patient group they serve to provide a lawful service, so this action led to the hospital’s closure.

Debbie Ivanova, CQC deputy chief inspector for people with a learning disability and autistic people, said: ‘After our March inspection found people were at risk of harm at Eldertree Lodge, we supported Coveberry Limited to help it improve the care it provided its patients by identifying areas it urgently needed to address. “Disappointingly, progress was not made.

‘Our subsequent inspection, in May and June, found people continued to receive unsafe care.

‘In some cases, people were subjected to abuse and interactions that lacked compassion, dignity or respect. This is unacceptable and people deserved better.

‘Additionally, the environment was unhygienic and poorly maintained, as well as blighted by blind spots which undermined staff observation of patients.

‘The lack of progress between the two inspections did not assure us Coveberry could deliver the change it desperately needed to make at Eldertree Lodge. Consequently, we took action to close the hospital.

‘Closing a service is a last resort, but we do not hesitate to act proportionally when people are at risk of harm or receiving poor care.’

CQC’s latest inspection of Eldertree Lodge found the hospital did not ensure its patients safety. This included failing to act to protect those at risk of self-harming, ensure a safe and clean environment or adequately monitor the quality of care people received.

Inspectors also found the hospital was short-staffed and did not engage well with external agencies. This contributed to its failure to capture detail following patient safety incidents to address entrenched problems.

The hospital’s issues stemmed from its leaders’ lack of oversight to understand its shortcomings and inform their efforts to make improvements.

Many of these issues mirrored those reported to Coveberry by CQC after its previous inspection of Eldertree Lodge. Despite the benefit that information offered, the latest inspection found the hospital’s leaders had not improved the service to ensure it met standards to which people are entitled.

As Coveberry could not evidence adequate improvement at Eldertree Lodge or substantive plans to drive change, CQC closed the hospital. All patients were supported to transfer to other services by the end of June.

CQC’s action to close the service was not publishable until now as Coveberry was entitled to a statutory period during which it had the right to appeal. No appeal was lodged.

Dan Scorer, head of policy at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: ‘Families have ​repeatedly raised the alarm over the mistreatment ​and abuse of their loved ones trapped in inpatient units.

‘And despite the government promising to get people out of these hospitals following the abuse uncovered at Winterbourne View a decade ago, there have been over 9,000 admissions since 2015, equivalent to four a day. Behind these numbers are people whose ​human rights are at serious risk.   

‘We welcome the care regulator taking decisive action to safeguard people, stop abuse and close this failing unit, but it is simply unacceptable that people with a learning disability and autistic people have again been failed by a system that should be protecting them.

‘The government ​must treat this scandal with the urgency that’s needed and publish its long-​awaited strategy as soon as possible to ​drive the change ​that is so desperately needed.

‘And the government’s ​repeatedly delayed social care reforms must come with significant funding so people with a learning disability can get the support they need in their community, instead of being locked away in modern-day asylum​s.’

Photo Credit – Google

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