The healthcare watchdog praised bosses of a mental health hospital after visiting during the weeks when the BBC filmed patients being mistreated.
According to a report to governors at the trust which runs the Edenfield Centre, the Care Quality Commission noted its “strong, motivated leaders”.
After the BBC gave it information about the abuse, the watchdog suspended the hospital’s “good” rating.
The CQC said it would take further action if needed.
The watchdog, which inspects hospitals like Edenfield to ensure they are safe and providing a good service, told the BBC patients were subjected to “inhumane and degrading” treatment in the footage captured by Panorama’s undercover reporter.
The CQC said it had given “initial feedback” to the Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust, according to its “standard process”.
It added that its two inspections in June and July – examining the overall leadership of the trust as well as three of its core services – had found “significant shortfalls” and it had taken enforcement action.
Until BBC Panorama sent the watchdog a summary of its findings in September, however, the CQC had only sent warning notices relating to different services visited during the recent inspections – adult acute wards and psychiatric intensive care units.
The regulator had not sent any such warning about the Edenfield medium secure inpatient unit in Prestwich hospital, where the undercover reporter filmed staff swearing at patients, mocking their self-harm, using restraint inappropriately and secluding patients for weeks in small, bare rooms.
During informal feedback following the recent inspections, the care watchdog said that staff “demonstrated the values of the trust” – which include being caring and compassionate, inspiring hope, and showing respect. Inspectors also said the trust had “strong, motivated leaders who carried strong vision and values and were highly motivated”.
Christian Wakeford, the Labour MP whose Bury South constituency includes the hospital, criticised the CQC’s failure to act promptly and inspector’s praise of leaders at the trust.
“Either the CQC have not inspected properly or there is a fundamental failure of leadership at the organisation,” he said.
“All they have done is given more questions we need to ask in order to provide justice to patients and families.”
The BBC learnt of the section 29A warning notices issued by the CQC in July, from an internal GMMH-Trust document. Such notices are one way the watchdog can take enforcement action if it finds issues which are probably systemic and that result in harm, or the risk of harm.
They required hospital bosses to improve the way they managed the risks of patients finding places to hang or strangle themselves, and to address fire safety concerns, including their “smoke free policy”. These were for adult acute services, which are not based at Prestwich hospital.
In September, after BBC Panorama had given the CQC information about the abuses caught in its secret filming, the watchdog said it had suspended the previous “good” inspection grade for Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust’s forensic and secure wards.
The rating was given to Edenfield and the other secure wards at the trust in October 2019, when the regulator concluded that services were effective, caring, responsive and well-led.
In the same inspection, they gave safety a lower grade of “requires improvement”.
Days before the Panorama was broadcast, the BBC understands the CQC also issued a new section 29A warning notice about “safe staffing and systems and processes”. The BBC does not know what services inspected this related to specifically.
The mental health charity Mind told the BBC that the treatment and behaviour uncovered by the BBC at Edenfield “raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the CQC inspection process”.
“The patients at Edenfield deserve answers about whether these failings had been detected during the inspection visit in June while the undercover filming was going on, and if so, why they weren’t urgently acted upon.”
Mind is calling for a public inquiry into inpatient mental health care across England. It said there had been “repeated failures in care and regulation over the past decade”.
Jemima Burnage, interim director of mental health at the CQC, said its inspection of the three core services had been in response to “emerging concerns” and the full report would be published later.
She said: “We have suspended the rating of the forensic services while we finalise the findings from our most recent inspection and to reflect the current concerns about the quality and safety of care being provided.
“We are reviewing the footage shown by the BBC and will not hesitate to take further action if needed.”
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Source: BBC News, 4th October 2022