• Whistleblowers alerted inspectors to concerns
  • Service was rated “inadequate” overall and for safe and well-led
  • Cygnet calls report “inaccurate picture”

Private healthcare provider Cygnet has accused the Care Quality Commission of publishing an “inaccurate picture”, after its eighth site was rated “inadequate” in just over a year.

Inspectors found three-quarters of nursing staff at Cygnet Acer Clinic in Derbyshire were unqualified. The CQC also said inspectors saw patients banging on windows to attract the attention of staff not on ward.

The inspection service has suspended admissions to the clinic, which provides treatment for 28 female patients with personality disorders and who self-harm.

Its report also noted incidents of self-harm by patients had increased significantly in the three months before the inspection.

The CQC was contacted by whistleblowers prior to and during its inspection who reported low staffing levels, a lack of support from managers and patients feeling unsafe.

Despite these findings, Cygnet has claimed the report was “inaccurate” and that an additional inspection in October had led to “positive feedback”.

The service was rated “inadequate” by the CQC overall and for its safe and well-led categories.

The CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health Kevin Cleary said: “We found that the service was not ensuring the safety of those in its care. The number of incidents of self-harm by patients had increased in the three months leading up to our inspection and almost half of the incidents involved patients using a ligature.

“Ligature risk assessments for wards were too generalised and did not include all ligature anchor points on the wards, meaning service leaders and staff were not effectively minimising the risk of serious harm to patients.”

Cygnet Acer Clinic, which was rated “good” overall by inspectors in 2018, is now the eighth of the private provider’s mental health, learning disability and autism services to have been rated “inadequate” since October 2018.

In addition, Whorlton Hall, a private hospital in County Durham run by Cygnet, closed earlier this year after a shocking undercover investigation by BBC Panorama revealed abuse of patients with learning disabilities.

A Cygnet spokesman said: “We are disappointed that the CQC has published such an inaccurate picture of the care currently provided.

“This CQC report is in fact from an inspection in the summer. Since then, there has been a further inspection in October and the CQC has recognised the progress made and given us positive feedback. We expect that report to be published shortly.

“We have implemented substantial improvements and all the measures called for have been introduced, including a renewed focus on recruitment and training for staff, strengthened observation and engagement policies and a full review of care plans and risk assessments.

“We have also adopted an open and transparent culture with our [clinical commissioning group commissioner] and NHS partners who have visited the service to see the improvements made and have been instrumental in supporting our progress.”