force closure of private mental health unit for adolescents
by Angela Hussain
mental health unit for adolescents at a privately-run hospital in
Norfolk has been forced to close, following a damning inspection
from the healthcare watchdog.
It is is the first time the Healthcare Commission has forced the
closure of a privately-run inpatient healthcare facility.
inspectors identified “serious concerns” about the treatment
and welfare of adolescents with learning disabilities and mental
health problems in St Luke’s Hospital, run by Mild Professional
Homes, in Harleston.
Inspectors identified a lack of procedures in place to ensure employees
had the necessary clearances, qualifications and experience to work
in such a unit.
Inspectors also found staff at the hospital had not received adequate
training to care for children with learning disabilities. In particular,
staff had not received training in child protection issues and methods
of care for children with learning disabilities.
After the inspection, the commission made an application to seek
an emergency order to close the unit.
the commission said directors of Mild Professional Homes voluntarily
agreed to close the unit for 13 adolescents.
Sandra Chittenden, the Healthcare Commission’s head of central
region, said: “The patients being cared for at St Luke’s
adolescent unit are extremely vulnerable. It is absolutely critical
that every possible action is taken protect their safety and welfare."
In September the commission took action to safeguard the patients
at the Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust following concerns regarding
the quality of care.
This month it also launched a draft three-year plan for adults with
learning disabilities. The plan, which is out for consultation,
aims to bring about improvement to the healthcare of people with
learning disabilities in England over the next three years.
• an audit of all inpatient care being provided for people
with learning difficulties
• investigating remaining long stay hospitals for people with
• reviewing care of people with learning difficulties placed
outside their local area
• increasing the accessibility of the commission's services
so that people with learning difficulties can make complaints about
their care more easily.
Healthcare Commission's draft three
year strategic plan for adults with learning disabilities 2006-2009:
consultation November 2005 (pdf)
like working at - or being a patient in - a privately-run mental
health unit? Contact the editor Adam
I was employed
out of desperation
Jean Johnston, author and carer, thecairn.com
I have frequently voiced concern over the employment of staff in
both the voluntary and private sector - and in particular within
care in the community.
Cuts in budgets along with staff shortages can lead to unsuitably
qualified people being employed out of desperation.
am a classic example. I was a carer of someone with a a mental illness
and was approached by an organisation and then employed as a support
worker due to my family experience.
was given one hour's training and was then given six people to support
(one was about to be discharged from acute care in hospital).
Having no experience or qualifications relevant to three of the
patients' conditions, I was unsure of the symptoms and signs of
how to identify when such conditions were worsening. Acutely aware
of the potential to do further damage to the patients' mental welfare
I resigned after four weeks.
major concern and fear is that my story is a common occurrence and
the potential for harm or risk through similar scenarios should
not be underestimated.
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