CCTV to spotcheck staff as hospital workers caught sleeping on job AGAIN

The CQC visited St John's House in Palgrave, near Diss, in December 2020 (file image)

Care Quality Commission inspectors revisited St John's House in Palgrave, near Diss, in April 2021 - Credit: Archant

Private hospital workers have been caught for a second time sleeping in charge of vulnerable patients at risk of self-harm.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors have slammed St John's House, a 49-bed hospital for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues in Palgrave, Suffolk, after visiting in late April.

The facility, run by Priory subsidiary Partnerships in Care in Lion Road, was plunged into special measures in December 2020 after inspectors caught workers sleeping and warned some staff interventions "demonstrated elements of abuse".

A report published today reveals staff present for the April inspection were caught sleeping in two out of three checks while they were supposed to be observing patients.

For one patient who required three staff to watch them, all three workers were seen to be asleep at the same time, wrote Stuart Dunn, the CQC's head of inspection for mental health and community services.

Now bosses in charge of the hospital, given the lowest-possible rating of 'inadequate' for safety, leadership, care and effectiveness, say they are regularly spot-checking CCTV to ensure workers comply with rules.

They said "decisive steps" were being taken to address issues raised by the CQC, adding that it had battled a shortage of clinical staff "affecting the entire healthcare sector as a whole".

CQC chiefs wrote that there was a reliance on agency workers, with hospital bosses explaining they had contracted specialist locum nurses to "bring a greater degree of consistency and expertise".

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Mr Dunn said the facility, which continues to be banned from admitting new patients, remains subject to enforcement action if major improvements are not made.

"Disappointingly, our latest inspection found the overall quality of care had not improved and many of the issues we previously raised remained unchanged," he said. 

"These included failings regarding patient observations, staffing arrangements and record keeping – all of which presented risks to patient safety.

"We will take further action to protect people if they are at immediate risk of harm, or if the service does not evidence how it will meet its obligations to its patients.”

Infection control had improved, and patients in long-term segregation had access to activities, CQC chiefs added.

St John's House, a private hospital in Palgrave, near Diss

St John's House is a 49-bed facility in Palgrave near Diss - Credit: Archant

An external review of incidents had been carried out following concerns about patients being harmed during restraints.

A hospital spokesman said it had recruited a new medical director, consultant psychologist, and additional locum nursing staff.

"Though St John’s House has had to deal with a shortage of clinical staff, which is affecting the entire healthcare sector as a whole, we remain firmly committed to ensuring patient needs are met," they added. 

"This includes working closely with commissioners and families to facilitate re-location to more appropriate settings which may take several months due to a shortage of alternative placements."

The hospital, which had 35 patients at the time of the inspection, will be visited again within six months.

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