• Priory Group to close small hospital after less than a year
  • The High Wycombe facility has been rated “inadequate” by the CQC
  • Company said it had struggled to recruit permanent staff

A major private provider is to close a new hospital less than a year after it opened, following an “inadequate” rating by the Care Quality Commission.

Inspectors found vacancy rates of 60 per cent for registered nurses at The Priory Hospital in High Wycombe, which is a 12-bed low security unit for young people with learning disabilities or autism. It opened in April 2018 and serves NHS patients commissioned by NHS England.

The CQC said it was “inadequate” for being safe, effective and well-led, and “required improvement” for being caring and responsive.

The company said it would close the unit on 16 February and was working to identify suitable alternative placements for its seven patients, including to other Priory-run units. It said there had been “significant investment” on the facility, but it had been unable to reduce its reliance on agency staff as quickly as expected.

The CQC, which also placed the hospital in special measures, said most of the staff working at the unit did not have any experience working with people with learning disabilities or autism, and had not received any essential specialist training.

Karen Bennett-Wilson, head of hospital inspection and lead for mental health at the regulator, added: “Our inspection has identified a number of serious problems concerning patient safety and the quality of care that needed immediate attention.”

The Priory Group also runs several mental health inpatient units.

Two of its other hospitals, in Roehampton and North London, have also been rated “inadequate” for safety since 2017. The hospital in Roehampton has since been upgraded to “requires improvement” for safety.

In a statement, The Priory Group said the staffing issues had “led to a number of instances where established operational policies and practices have not been adhered to which has resulted in the unacceptable inspection rating”.

It added: “Whilst we have made changes to the leadership and management of the unit in order to embed the comprehensive improvements initiated in October 2018, we recognise that these may not be capable of being sustained in the longer-term without an experienced, settled team of core nursing and clinical staff.”

A larger learning disabilities hospital in Mansfield run by another private provider, St Andrew’s Healthcare, was also rated “inadequate” and placed in special measures last week.