Health watchdog urges changes at Havant psychiatric home

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A PSYCHIATRIC hospital which admitted ‘shortcomings’ in discharging a patient 10 days before he murdered a friend has been investigated by the health care watchdog.

A whistleblower contacted authorities over fears about standards of care and staffing levels at Elmleigh, in New Lane, Havant.

The Care Quality Commission carried out an inspection and found problems with both of these areas. It has ordered Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust to take immediate action.

Paranoid schizophrenic John Coates was let out of the hospital just 10 days before killing his friend John McCarthy in a frenzied attack in July 2009.

The hospital admitted ‘shortcomings’ in the care of Coates but the results of an independent inquiry were never made public.

One of the issues raised in the most recent report was a lack of clarity over whether the doors to the male and female wards should be locked when patients at risk of absconding needed to be locked in.

Patients who attend voluntarily are free to come and go but there was a concern that they would also be locked in because of one patient.

The trust has now implemented a system of putting a large sign next to locked doors telling patients they can ask a member of staff to unlock them if they need to go out.

The report also found heavy reliance on agency staff. Records showed worrying allegations against agency staff, including that one had breached patient confidentiality, another had taken the medication key home, another ‘grabbed and threatened’ a patient while another had to be sent home after falling asleep.

The trust said it had launched its own internal investigation before CQC’s inspection and was already working towards addressing the problems.

In a statement the trust’s chief executive Katrina Percy said: ‘The trust fully accepts the findings by the CQC and has already submitted a detailed action plan to the commission detailing how it will resolve the issues raised in the report.We are committed to providing the best care possible and we pride ourselves on being a learning organisation – and our priority is to put things right as quickly as possible.’

She added: ‘We are unhappy our services have been found wanting on this occasion but we will use this report as a springboard to improve.’