Devon Partnership Trust has been ordered by regulators to ensure that patients requiring acute care are treated closer to their homes.

A report published last week by the Care Quality Commission states that the mental health trust must put systems in place, including “effective bed management” and clearer patient care plans, to ensure that nursing time is not taken up by searching for a bed.  

While a CQC inspection in February found that the trust provided safe, effective and compassionate care, the watchdog has ordered the organisation to create and implement a plan to provide patients access to the full range of therapies “best provided” through the trust.

The CQC said: “There must be systems in place… to reduce the need for patients, especially for adults of working age who need acute inpatient care, to be admitted long distances from their homes.”

Hospital-based “places of safety” must be used appropriately to reduce the use of police custody and they also need comprehensive access to staff, the inspection team concluded.

A further recommendation was that trust should continue to work with partners to establish a psychiatric intensive care unit.

Trust chief executive Melanie Walker said: “We volunteered to be one of the first mental health trusts in the country to experience the new-style CQC inspection and, overall, the findings are encouraging. 

“The CQC observed consistently high levels of compassion, commitment and good, safe care among our frontline staff and we are very proud of this.

“As we would expect, the CQC also identified areas where improvements need to be made - and we are developing a comprehensive action plan to address these.  This will build on our existing work, as most of the issues that have been raised are already well known to us - for example the lack of a psychiatric intensive care unit in Devon; the provision of appropriate ‘places of safety’; long waiting lists for some services and the need for better support for people who need urgent care and out-of-hours care.

“It is clear that we need to make further progress on each of these fronts, as well as others identified in the report, and we will be working closely with our commissioners and other partners to explore how we can make the necessary improvements together.”

The trust covers an area with a population of 890,000 people encompassing Devon County Council and Torbay Unitary Authority. The trust employs around 2,500 staff, has an annual budget of £130m and supports almost 18,000 people at any one time.