• NHS England is closely monitoring staff “capacity and capability” at Huntercombe Hospital in Stafford after damning CQC report
  • One ward remains closed and two have capped capacity
  • CQC has completed a follow-up inspection, which the hospital says found improvements

The “capacity and capability” of staff at the Huntercombe Hospital in Stafford is being closely monitored by NHS England following a damning Care Quality Commission inspection that saw it placed in special measures.

Since the inspection the hospital – which was rated inadequate in all five inspection domains – has appointed a new hospital director, Martin Davies, and “strengthened” its senior management team. It would not comment on whether staff had been asked to leave.

NHS England, which commissions NHS services at the private children’s mental health hospital, also told HSJ that:

  • One person who was being looked after in the hospital’s psychiatric intensive care unit requested to “move to a different provider” when NHS England talked with families. No families have since made a similar request.
  • The closure of the PICU immediately after the inspection was to “protect quality [and] safety” of patients. NHS England said it was “very challenging relocating patients” to alternative placements.
  • The decision not to close the other two wards “had nothing to do with capacity elsewhere”.
  • The two remaining wards at the hospital, one dedicated to eating disorders and a general acute ward, were initially closed to new admissions but reopened to new cases five weeks later.
  • The eating disorder ward has had capacity reduced from 15 beds to 12, and the acute ward has reduced from 12 beds to eight. NHS England is in talks with the trust about “when and how” the acute ward can be increased back to 12 beds.

The CQC confirmed that since its first report was published in August, it has already returned to the hospital for a follow-up inspection.

Although the report from that visit is yet to be published, a spokesperson for The Huntercombe Group said: “The inspectors’ verbal feedback acknowledged that improvements had been made and the hospital had addressed the concerns raised in the warning notice.

“We fully intend to reopen the PICU ward and a suitable date for opening will be jointly agreed between the NHS England, the CQC and Huntercombe.”

As part of an action plan agreed with the provider, the hospital is now being asked to take a number of steps to improve nursing and therapy rotas, as well as improving recruitment and agency checks; and ensuring “more effective rostering in terms of skill mix”.

It also has to improve the training and induction given to staff including on patient body searches and “restrictive practices and techniques to avoid”.

The leadership is also being scrutinised. The hospital has been asked to host daily morning meetings with key staff and the hospital director; carry out fortnightly incident reviews; and hold weekly meetings to discuss staffing and occupancy levels. Care plans, incident documentation and training are all now subject to regular audit.

An NHS England case manager is onsite once a week to meet patients and staff, and the CQC is meeting with the provider on a fortnightly basis.