PERFORMANCE: The country’s largest mental health and community services trust has been rated ‘requires improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission.

Inspectors said they found a lack of consistency in the care provided by Southern Health Foundation Trust.

Staffing levels and skill mix across some of the trust’s 17 core services were raised as a concern.

The safety of some patients has also been called into question due to potential ligature points found at a secure hospital operated by the trust.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

A ‘lack of consistency’ in care was found at the trust by CQC inspectors

While an overall “requires improvement” rating was given, the trust was rated “good’” for being caring and responsive, and some services were rated “outstanding”.

The trust’s Winchester based specialist perinatal service was rated “outstanding” in all areas.

Southern Health delivers a wide range of community, mental health, learning disability and adult social care services at sites in Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

CQC inspectors raised concerns during their visit about the safety of patients at Ravenswood House, a secure adult mental health unit in Fareham, Hampshire.

While there are plans to relocate the service, inspectors were concerned upon finding ligature points that could endanger people at risk of suicide, making the site unfit for use.

The regulator said the amount of staff and skill mix on some mental health wards were of concern, with staff reporting working longer than their contracted hours in order to deliver care to patients.

The trust must now provide a plan setting out how it will address a number of issues, including ensuring there is an appropriate policy for the restraint of patients in adolescent mental health wards.

The provider has also been asked to ensure there are sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced staff to provide end of life care.

Despite the problems, inspectors reported that in all the services they encountered committed, sensitive and caring staff.

Inspectors also identified some “exceptional” practice across the trust, including a system of peer review involving small review teams from other areas within the trust assessing colleagues against set criteria.

Paul Lelliott, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: The trust has reconfigured its learning disability services in Oxfordshire, closing inpatient beds at Slade House.

“Despite this, some concerns remain and people are worried by the uncertainty over the future of the service.

“In common with some other mental health and community health trusts, Southern Health, is struggling to recruit good staff - the general shortage of newly qualified mental health nurses had contributed to this problem.

Katrina Percy, chief executive of Southern Health, said: “We welcome this report from the CQC, which is an invaluable opportunity for us to reflect on detailed feedback on our services.

“In every part of the report, the recurring theme is the caring and responsive approach of staff towards patients.

“The report also highlighted a number of areas for improvement, which we have already begun to address.

“We know that there will always be things we can learn from and ways we can make our services better.”

The inspections took place over four days in October.