Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust has been issued with a warning notice by the Care Quality Commission after an inspection team found seclusion rooms were being used as bedrooms.

Inspectors visited St Ann’s Hospital in June and identified that seclusion rooms were being used inappropriately to admit patients when bedrooms were unavailable.

Upon a return visit in November the inspectors found that this practice was still going on. Two seclusion rooms and the section 136 suite - a designated area for people detained for up to 72 hours under section 136 of the Mental Health Act while awaiting a formal assessment - were being used as bedrooms.

Their report said: “These rooms were not designed to be used as bedrooms and this practice compromised the dignity and wellbeing of people who used the service.”

The warning notice must be met by March.

Staff told the team that the door to the seclusion room was unlocked when it was used as a bedroom. However, there was no handle on the inside of the door so patients were unable to obtain privacy. If the door was closed from the outside they would be locked in.

One of the rooms was filmed by CCTV cameras that could not be switched off by staff.

Between August and November the seclusion rooms were used as bedrooms for 30 nights.  

Mary Sexton, the trust’s director of nursing, quality and governance, said that due to “significant pressure” on inpatient beds seclusion rooms had been used as an “absolute last resort”. She added: “However, this is clearly not good clinical practice and we have ceased the use of seclusion rooms for this purpose.”