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CQC brands Palgrave's St John's House 'inadequate' after inspectors find hospital staff asleep on the job

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Government inspectors found staff at a Suffolk mental health hospital asleep on the job, and have threatened to hold its management to account if much needed improvements are not made.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission rated St John's House, in Palgrave near Diss, as inadequate for the second time in four months after it found known risks affecting patient safety had not been addressed.

In the damning report released today, inspectors revealed they found staff asleep at times when they should have been observing patients - an issue which was flagged at the previous inspection - which the inspection body said was putting patients at risk of harm.

St John's House hospital, in Palgrave near Diss, which has been rated as inadequate by the CQC. Picture: Google
St John's House hospital, in Palgrave near Diss, which has been rated as inadequate by the CQC. Picture: Google

Stuart Dunn, the CQC's head of inspection for mental health and community services, said: "Disappointingly, our latest inspection found the overall quality of care had not improved and many of the issues we previously raised remained unchanged. These included failings regarding patient observations, staffing arrangements and record keeping – all of which presented risks to patient safety."

He said the previous inspection, carried out in December last year, had highlighted a number of problem areas in which St John's House needed to improve its care of patients.

These included ensuring people at risk of self-harming were observed appropriately, and measures to protect people from abuse were in place.

St John's House hospital, in Palgrave near Diss, which has been rated as inadequate by the CQC. Picture: Google
St John's House hospital, in Palgrave near Diss, which has been rated as inadequate by the CQC. Picture: Google

“The hospital remains subject to enforcement action following last year’s inspection, and we continue to monitor it closely. We will take further action to protect people if they are at immediate risk of harm, or if the service does not evidence how it will meet its obligations to its patients.”

Because of its low rating, the hospital has been banned by the CQC from admitting new patients into the unit without the authority's permission.

And inspectors said if improvement is not made they would step in to protect patients from the risk of harm and hold the service’s leaders to account.

St John's House, in Lion Road, had 35 patients at the time of the latest inspection in April. It is run by Partnerships in Care, which is part of the Priory Group, and provides care and treatment for patients with learning disabilities and associated mental health problems.

The latest unannounced inspection was undertaken to find out if it had made improvements after it was rated inadequate overall and placed in special measures following its last inspection.

In addition to being rated inadequate overall', the service was rated inadequate for being safe, effective, caring and well-led. It was rated 'requires improvement' for being responsive to people’s needs.

Inspectors identified a reliance on agency workers who did not always know the service, or have the right training to support its patients. The CQC said it meant people did not have regular individual time with a designated staff member, affecting the support patients received to have timely access to external specialists.

The issue worsened because documentation, including for risk assessment, was not always comprehensive. This meant staff did not always have easy access to all relevant information to inform the care they offered.

And inspectors also found learning was not always captured following patient safety incidents, including when patients had self-harmed.

This meant hospital leaders did not use all the information available to them to prevent future incidents occurring.

A hospital spokesman told Suffolk News that it has 'been taking decisive steps to address the issues raised by the CQC to ensure patients receive the high standard of care they should expect'.

"These include recruiting additional high-quality locum nursing staff, a consultant psychologist and a new medical director and we are appointing a new, full-time hospital director," the hospital spokesman said.

"Though St John’s House has had to deal with a shortage of clinical staff, which is affecting the entire healthcare sector as a whole, we remain firmly committed to ensuring patient needs are met.

"This includes working closely with commissioners and families to facilitate re-location to more appropriate settings which may take several months due to a shortage of alternative placements."

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