NHS Trust criticised for abuse response at home

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A HEALTH trust which runs a care home in Hull has been criticised for failing to protect vulnerable patients and not responding appropriately to allegations of abuse.

Humber NHS Found ation Trust, which runs Townend Court, was one of several organisations told to improve after the health and social care watchdog found health centres and care homes serving people with learning disabilities may be unsafe because they lack strong governance.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) published the first of five reports from a programme of 150 unannounced inspections of hospitals and care homes that look after people with learning disabilities.

Jo Dent, regional director of the CQC in the North, said of the Townend Court inspection: “We found that Humber NHS Foundation Trust had put patients at risk because it had not taken reasonable steps to identify the possibility of abuse and prevent it before it occurs, or respond appropriately to allegations of abuse.

“It was clear that the trust did not recognise that the use of restraint may itself amount to abuse, or that complaints by patients about the way they have been restrained should be treated in the same way as safeguarding allegations.”

Responding to the findings, trust chief executive David Snowdon said: “The trust has taken the CQC’s concerns extremely seriously. We are committed to improving our systems for recording and identifying all areas of concern in care.

“The trust places patient safety as its highest priority and has an excellent track record in this area.”

The trust said Townend Court was undergoing extensive rebuilding and investment, which would lead to “one of the best facilities of its kind in the country”.

The five “pilot” inspections into hospitals providing assessment services for people with learning disabilities were prompted by abuses exposed earlier this year at the Winterbourne View care home in Gloucestershire.

They found a lack of understanding about “safe, person-centred” care.

Inspectors, aided by experts with first-hand experience of care, looked for evidence that those with learning disabilities get safe and appropriate treatment and support, and are protected from abuse.

Only one of the five services inspected fully complied with the Government’s essential standards of quality and safety required by law.

Dame Jo Williams, chair of the CQC, said: “These inspections are the first of many, but already we can see the effects of a lack of strong leadership and governance. Where we have found problems, they can often be traced back to poor procedures or poor understanding of procedures. Another recurring issue in the first inspections is a lack of person-centred care.”

Services found wanting will be forced to tell the CQC how and when they will improve, and could face enforcement action by the regulator.

The inspections come after 10 members of staff who worked at the Winterbourne View care home were charged last month with ill-treatment and neglect offences under the Mental Health Act. The home was closed after a BBC Panorama investigation revealed footage which appeared to show vulnerable residents being pinned down, slapped, doused in water and taunted.

Last week, a report from the National Audit Office criticised the CQC for cutting back on inspection and compliance checks.