• CQC lead for mental health, Paul Lelliott, says there are “hundreds” of mental health beds within shared accommodation 
  • He says “it isn’t right in 2019” that patients are admitted to these types of beds
  • All mental health wards should have single en-suite rooms, he adds

The mental health chief for the Care Quality Commission has raised concerns over “hundreds” of dormitory style beds still used in the sector, and suggested more capital funding is required.

In an exclusive interview with HSJ, Paul Lelliott said he was worried about the number of mental health beds still housed within shared accommodation wards.

Dr Lelliott added: “It really isn’t right in 2019, that people who are really very distressed when they are admitted to hospital are asked to sleep in the same room as a stranger, who is probably equally distressed.”

The regulator has recently sent a request to providers asking how many of these wards they still have, HSJ can reveal.

Also, addressing recent high-profile reports about the quality of care within inpatient units run by private providers, Dr Lelliott said the CQC had not found a systemic problem with the quality of independent units compared to the NHS.

However, he added: “I think there is an issue for units that admit people from all over the country, and those are usually independent provider units. In that situation you might have eight to 12 clinical commissioning groups all spot purchasing the odd bed.

“I think the concern is it then becomes less clear who has got responsibility as the commissioner for the quality oversight of that service… it is something NHS England might think about.”

In July 2018, the CQC published its state of care in mental health services report and raised concerns about “a number of wards that had dormitory accommodation.” 

Speaking about the issue, Dr Lelliott said: “When I first started doing this job [at the CQC] and reports were coming in, I was very surprised they [dormitory wards] were left, I thought this had gone…

“If you look at the health building note [issued in 2000], that gives guidance on how mental health wards should be designed… it says on a mental health ward there should be single rooms with an en-suite bathroom. Nineteen years later, we should be moving to the point that for every ward there should be single rooms with en-suite bathrooms.

“Where we have identified problems with the estates in response to our inspections, providers do what they can to mitigate those problems, but ultimately some of these wards need refurbishing and others probably [have] services which would struggle to make them fit for the 21st century.”

He would not be drawn on how much capital funding could be needed to address these problems.

In his recent review of the Mental Health Act, Sir Simon Wessely noted mental health needed major capital investment, adding the sector had some of the “worst estate the NHS has”.

The long-term plan, published last month, also mentioned capital would be required from the upcoming spending review to upgrade mental health inpatient units, but did not go as far as specifying the amount needed. 

CQC concerned about 'hundreds' of inappropriate wards