Inspectors force closure of private mental health unit for adolescents

A mental health unit for adolescents at a privately-run hospital in Norfolk has been forced to close, following a damning inspection from the healthcare watchdog.

It is is the first time the Healthcare Commission has forced the closure of a privately-run inpatient healthcare facility.

Commission inspectors identified “serious concerns” about the treatment and welfare of adolescents with learning disabilities and mental health problems in St Luke’s Hospital, run by Mild Professional Homes, in Harleston.

Inspectors identified a lack of procedures in place to ensure employees had the necessary clearances, qualifications and experience to work in such a unit.

Inspectors also found staff at the hospital had not received adequate training to care for children with learning disabilities. In particular, staff had not received training in child protection issues and methods of care for children with learning disabilities.

After the inspection, the commission made an application to seek an emergency order to close the unit.

But the commission said directors of Mild Professional Homes voluntarily agreed to close the unit for 13 adolescents.

Sandra Chittenden, the Healthcare Commission’s head of central region, said: “The patients being cared for at St Luke’s adolescent unit are extremely vulnerable. It is absolutely critical that every possible action is taken protect their safety and welfare.”

In September the commission took action to safeguard the patients at the Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust following concerns regarding the quality of care.

This month it also launched a draft three-year plan for adults with learning disabilities. The plan, which is out for consultation, aims to bring about improvement to the healthcare of people with learning disabilities in England over the next three years.

Plans include:
• an audit of all inpatient care being provided for people with learning difficulties
• investigating remaining long stay hospitals for people with learning difficulties
• reviewing care of people with learning difficulties placed outside their local area
• increasing the accessibility of the commission’s services so that people with learning difficulties can make complaints about their care more easily.

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