• CQC finds people with addictions are at risk of harm at independent residential rehab units
  • The report found 49 out of 68 providers breached regulations
  • Regulator took action against eight provider s and four are no longer operating following concerns about their services

People with drug and alcohol addiction are being put at risk of harm at many independent residential rehabilitation units, a new report has warned.

The Care Quality Commission published the report today revealing nearly three-quarters of private clinics were failing to hit regulatory standards of care.

The briefing was based on inspections of 68 independent services providing residential detoxification services over the last two years.

The CQC required 49 providers (72 per cent) to make improvements because they had breached regulations of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and failed to meet fundamental standards of care.

It took enforcement action against eight providers. Forty-one providers breached two or more regulations and 25 breached three or more.

CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals and mental health lead Paul Lelliott said it was deeply concerned about how people were being cared for at the independent clinics.

He said: “While we have found some services that are providing good care and we are beginning to see improvements, all providers need to review their practice so that we can be assured that they are delivering safe and effective care.

“Detoxification under clinical supervision is often the first stage of a person’s addiction treatment. It can be a difficult, unpleasant and sometimes, risky experience. It is vital that providers get this right to support people’s onward rehabilitation and recovery.”

The report highlighted “multiple concerns” including that many clinics were:

  • not assessing the risks to the safety of the people within their care prior to their admission;
  • not following recognised national clinical guidance on how to treat people who are withdrawing from alcohol or drugs;
  • not storing, dispensing and handling medicines appropriately; and
  • not carrying out full employment checks or sufficiently training their staff.

Examples of what the CQC found during its inspections include:

  • staff administering medication, including controlled drugs like methadone, without the appropriate training or being assessed as competent to do so;
  • staff giving paracetamol to people within their care more frequently than every four hours despite them already having, or being at a greater risk of having, liver damage due to their heavy alcohol use;
  • staff not having planned how they would manage a person’s epileptic fits during their withdrawal; and
  • staff lacking appropriate training in basic life support, consent and mental capacity and safeguarding.

The watchdog said it had required all providers in breach of regulations to improve, and will be carrying out follow up inspections to ensure they have done so.

The CQC has re-inspected 14 providers, with three no longer breaching their regulations and seven having reduced their breaches. Four of the services are no longer operating following the concerns raised by the CQC on its inspections.

Medical detoxification services are funded by local authorities with more than 2,600 people referred to these services in 2015-16.

The report comes after the CQC was given additional powers in September to rate independent providers in the same way it rates NHS providers and care homes. The regulator said it is expecting to begin rating these services from the spring.

It will launch a public consultation on how this will be done next year.