UK Regulator Issues Report on Mental Health Care Facility in Response to Whistleblowers’ Concerns

Mental health care facility report

The Care Quality Commission (QCQ), the UK’s “independent regulator of health and social care,” conducted an investigation of a women’s mental health facility in response to whistleblowers’ concerns, according to a November 4 article from BBC News. The report found a number of issues at the facility and made recommendations to the facility.  

Cygnet Appletree in Meadowfield, Durham, UK, is a location of healthcare provider Cygnet Health Care. According to the QCQ’s report, “Cygnet Appletree provides acute and psychiatric intensive care services for patients who are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 or admitted as informal patients. The hospital admits female patients aged 18 and over.” The investigation was conducted in early August of 2020 and at the time of the investigation, there were 9 patients staying in the Pippin ward, which provides “high intensity care for people whose illness means they cannot be safely or easily managed on an acute ward.” Staff included a “registered manager and a controlled drugs accountable officer,” the report stated.  

The investigation stemmed from “whistleblowing concerns” that the CQC received. These concerns included “issues in patient safety, culture and incident monitoring,” according to the report. The report found that Cygnet Appletree staff lacked knowledge of environmental risk assessments and full training of the incident reporting system. The report also found that staff members were failing to follow the healthcare provider’s COVID-19 guidelines regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) and updated guidances on monitoring patients’ physical health after the usage of rapid tranquilisation, among other concerns.  

Notably, the investigation found that “all staff felt able to raise concerns and knew how to use the whistleblowing process.” However, the report also stated: “When we raised concerns with managers regarding the culture on the ward, they failed to assure us that they were taking all complaints and concerns seriously.” 

Dr. Kevin Cleary, the CQC deputy chief inspector, said the hospital “‘was not ensuring its patients’ safety’ with a ‘lack of oversight from managers” and failure to follow policies behind many of the shortcomings,” according to the BBC News article 

A spokesperson from Cygnet Appletree said that the problems have been addressed and staff members have now been properly trained. “We are confident that the service today is very different to the one reflected in the report and mirrors the high standards of safety and care that merited the hospital a Good CQC rating in the previous inspection report nine months before,” she said.  

Read the QCQ’s full report here.

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