• Kneesworth House in Hertfordshire and Priory Hospital Blandford in Dorset both rated “inadequate” 
  • NHS England also suspends admissions to Blandford hospital
  • Services have up to six months to make improvements

Two Priory Group hospitals have been put in special measures after inspectors raised serious concerns about how staff treated patients.

Care Quality Commission inspectors rated both Kneesworth House, in Hertfordshire, and Priory Hospital Blandford, in Dorset, “inadequate”. NHS England has also suspended admissions to Priory Hospital Blandford “until further notice” as a result of the inspection. 

Kneesworth House – which was downgraded from an overall “good” rating – provides inpatient care for people with acute mental health problems, locked and open rehabilitation services, and forensic services.

During the inspection in March and April this year, the CQC found some staff at the hospital, which is run by Priory subsidiary Partnerships in Care, were “uncaring and disrespectful”.

Patients told inspectors they wore trainers to bed as some staff members “used keys to prod their legs and feet to get them out of bed”. They also accused staff of “antagonising” patients, adding some “had used negative and judgmental language” about a patient in seclusion.

The CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals Paul Lelliott said the inspectors’ ”greatest concerns” were with the forensic wards, where inspectors found “stained and dirty toilets and unpleasant odours”.

Dr Lelliott added: “The care provided at Kneesworth House fell well below the standard that people should expect, and our inspection team were very concerned by some of what they found.”

As well as an overall “inadequate” rating, the hospital has been rated “inadequate” for safe, caring and well-led. It has been rated “good” in the effective and responsive categories.

Problems at Blandford

Meanwhile, Priory Hospital Blandford – which provides care for children and young people with learning disabilities and mental health issues – was inspected in May 2019.

Inspectors raised immediate concerns over the safety of the young people, noting “staff lacked an understanding” of providing quality services for children with learning disabilities and mental health issues.

Children told inspectors they felt “unsafe” on the wards and there were “a number of incidents” where young people had assaulted or were bullying each other, according to the CQC.

The hospital was rated ”inadequate” overall and across the safe, effective, caring and well-led domains. It was rated “requires improvement” for being responsive.

Dr Lelliott said: “Staff did not have the experience and skills to manage the complex needs of the young people on the wards…

“Since our inspection we have continued to monitor the hospital closely. We will continue to do this and will not hesitate to take further action if the provider doesn’t make all the required improvements.”

The Priory Group

Both services now have up to six months to make improvements before they are reinspected.

The CQC added the Priory Group had taken immediate action to address issues at Priory Hospital Blandford, including putting in place new leadership arrangements and an action plan outlining how the CQC’s concerns will be addressed.

A Priory Healthcare spokesperson said: “We take the CQC findings extremely seriously and are making immediate changes at Blandford which has suffered from being unable to attract suitably-qualified nurses and clinicians with the expertise to meet the needs of this complex patient group. This reflects a national picture, with staffing problems particularly acute where sites are rural, and service users require high levels of specialist input and round-the-clock care.

“At Kneesworth, a major investment plan is underway to ensure the environment is improved. While we accept the forensic service fell below expected standards, the CQC rated the hospital’s acute mental health and rehabilitation services, which make up the greatest proportion of patients, as ‘good’, and said that, overall, the hospital was ‘good’ for being effective and responsive. Our immediate priority is to address the issues raised by the regulator to ensure good practice is replicated throughout.”

In February this year, the company closed The Priory Hospital in High Wycombe after it was rated “inadequate” and placed in special measures.

Meanwhile, in April this year, the hospital group was fined £300,000 following the death of a 14-year-old NHS-funded patient in its care at Ticehurst House in East Sussex.

Join us at the HSJ Transforming Mental Health Summit (28-29 November 2019, Hilton Leeds) as senior peers from across the NHS, local authority and wider mental health service delivery landscape to discuss the remaining challenges as we reach the end of the Five Year Forward View. Register your interest here: http://bit.ly/2KbYAzJ