PERFORMANCE: Monitor has launched an investigation into Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation Trust to determine whether it has broken the conditions of its licence, after concerns were raised over the quality of its care.

The health sector regulator wrote to trust bosses last week after the Care Quality Commission issued a warning notice identifying care failings at the trust’s Auckland Park Hospital, which looks after people with advanced dementia.

Monitor gave the trust a red governance risk rating as a result of the warning notice. The CQC had found the trust was failing to ensure people’s dignity and choices were being respected.

Its report said staff assumed all their patients were unable to make the decisions about where they wished to spend their time; whether they wanted their bedroom door locked or unlocked; and whether they wanted to hold their own bedroom door key.

This meant that trust employees were acting contrary to the 2005 Mental Capacity Act.

The trust had also identified a number of hazards in the hospital’s garden area, but had no plans in place to address them.

The latest action from the CQC followed two previous compliance notices. One related to the same issues at Auckland Park from October last year, and another to the trust’s West Park Hospital in January.

In a letter to the trust Monitor’s regional director for the north Yvonne Mowlds said she was concerned that the failure to act on an earlier compliance notice “may be indicative of governance failings in respect of quality of care.”

This in turn could mean the trust was failing to comply with the conditions of its foundation trust licence.

The regulator will ask the trust to explain why they have experienced problems and what plans they have to improve.

The trust said it has taken immediate action to address issues raised by the CQC.

Chief executive Martin Barkley admitted it was of “real concern” that the trust did not make improvements after the CQC first raised concerns about Auckland Park last year.

He added: “The CQC found we were making assumptions about individuals’ lack of capacity to make particular decisions… our motives were to protect patients from harm but it is not appropriate to make blanket decisions that affect the freedoms of all patients.

“We have now taken action to make sure that individual assessments are carried out. These changes and other measures to address the issues raised by the CQC… are being implemented and most will be completed by the beginning of July.”