‘Unsafe’ private mental health hospital placed in special measures

The Care Quality Commission has taken action to stop new admissions to some wards at Cygnet Hospital Wyke, based in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in the wake of serious issues being uncovered.

“Management had little understanding of identifying and managing risks”

CQC report 

The watchdog conducted two separate inspections of the hospital, run by Cygnet Health Care, in June after being contacted by an “anonymous whistleblower”.

Inspectors found the 51-bed hospital, which has three wards, was not delivering safe or effective care and that patients were at “high risk of avoidable harm”.

They said leaders at the hospital had a “routine disregard of standard operating and safety procedures”.

On one occasion, a patient, who required enhanced observations, was able to tie a ligature without staff noticing, “exposing themselves to a serious risk of strangulation”.

“Staff were not reporting incidents, preventing risks from being followed up and were not trained in patient observation and engagement,” CQC inspectors said in a damning report published today.

“Management had little understanding of identifying and managing risks to enable improvements to be made and allowed failures in adherence to policy to go unchallenged.”

Carers and families did not feel involved in the care of their relatives and the way some staff treated patients was “antagonistic and not always respectful and dignified”, said the report.

“We have found the standard of care provided at Cygnet Hospital Wyke to have deteriorated”

Paul Lelliott

Patients told inspectors during their visit that staff were “power hungry” and “arrogant”, and pushed the need for them to say “please and thank you” to exert control over them.

Staff did not adhere properly to Mental Health Act guidance and also did not follow best practice around the use of restrictive practices such as prone restraint – a method that carries an increased risk of patient asphyxiation when used – as well as rapid tranquilisation and seclusion.

As a result, Cygnet Hospital Wyke was rated “inadequate” overall and placed into special measures. The provider was also rated “inadequate” for being safe, effective, caring and well-led, and “requires improvement” for responsiveness. T

In light of the findings, the CQC had applied conditions to the hospital’s registration preventing it from accepting any new patients and requiring the provider to review all patients’ clinical records.

However, following an appeal by Cygnet Health Care, the CQC has subsequently agreed to allow the hospital to re-open its male acute inpatient unit to new admissions from 13 August, under restricted conditions. But the regulator said it was considering further enforcement action.

The hospital has been under close scrutiny by the CQC over the past 18 months due to concerns identified during earlier inspections by the regulator.

An inspection in February 2018 found “poor standards of care” leading to a rating of “requires improvement”. The watchdog returned in November of that year, after it was told of several serious incidents at the hospital including the deaths of two patients.

“Since the inspections in June we have invested significantly in improving the service”

Cygnet spokesman 

Following this visit, the CQC fined the provider £1,250 and banned the hospital from accepting any new patients. The halt to admissions was lifted in December and, instead, the hospital was told it could admit one new patient every 24 hours.

The CQC returned in February this year and, while concerns still remained, inspectors found the hospital was making improvements and removed all restrictions on admissions in March.

The latest inspections came in response to a tip-off from an “anonymous whisteblower”.

It emerged that a further six serious incidents had been reported as of the end the May, including one relating to a patient having an amputation to their finger following an infection.

Cygnet Health Care is also responsible for Whorlton Hall, which hit the headlines earlier this year after abuse of people with learning disabilities was exposed by BBC Panorama.

In addition, a mental health hospital in Essex run by the same firm was placed in special measures earlier this year after inspectors raised serious concerns about safety and “inappropriate” behaviour by staff.

Dr Paul Lelliott, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: “The safety of people who use services is our highest priority and they deserve safe high-quality care.

“We have found the standard of care provided at Cygnet Hospital Wyke to have deteriorated further. Therefore, we are considering further enforcement action to protect the people living there.” 

Care Quality Commission

Dr Paul Lelliott

Paul Lelliott

He added that the CQC would continue to closely monitor the hospital with partner agencies to ensure patients were safe and would publish details of any further action taken.

A spokesman for Cygnet Hospital Wyke said it had implemented an “intense improvement programme” since the inspections in June, backed up with extra funding, and had brought in new management.

“As an organisation deeply committed to providing the very best care to the people who use our services, the findings in this report fall short of the standards we expect,” he said.

“Since the inspections in June we have invested significantly in improving the service,” he added.

“We have implemented an intense improvement programme which has been shared with the CQC and they have recognised progress is being made.”

The service is comprised of three wards: a male psychiatric intensive care unit, a male acute admission unit and a locked ward for older males with challenging behaviour.