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Patients with learning disabilities pushed and dragged across the floor by private hospital staff

Shaun Lintern
·4-min read
<p>CQC inspectors found evidence of abuse and poor care at St John’s House, near Diss</p> (Getty Images)

CQC inspectors found evidence of abuse and poor care at St John’s House, near Diss

(Getty Images)

Patients with learning disabilities were pushed and dragged across the floor while others had their arms trapped in doors by staff working at a private hospital, the care watchdog has found.

The Care Quality Commission said instances of abuse caught on CCTV had now been reported to police and staff working at St John’s House, near Diss in Norfolk, have been suspended. Police have said no further action will be taken.

The regulator has rated the home, part of The Priory Group, inadequate and put it into special measures after inspectors found a string of failures at the 49-bed home during an inspection in December.

According to the CQC’s report, inspectors reviewed CCTV footage of seven patient safety incidents between August and December last year.

This showed “issues such as prolonged use of prone restraint, a patient being dragged across the floor despite attempting to drop their weight, a patient being pushed over and the seclusion room door trapping a patients arm and making contact with a patient’s head when closed”.

In one incident inspectors witnessed a seclusion room door being shut on a patient’s arm when the patient ran to the door. The report said: “Staff did not effectively manage this risk and they did not immediately release the door, leaving the patient’s arm trapped.”

The report said that although some staff had been suspended the hospital had not reported all the incidents to the police or the local council. It added: “Following CQC raising this as a concern, the provider has now reported incidents to the police, the safeguarding team and has suspended further staff pending investigation.”

As well as those caught on CCTV the inspectors said there were “several” incidents of alleged abuse between patients that had not been reported.

Between 1 November and 22 December the CQC said there were more than 200 instances of staff using physical force against patients with 273 safety incidents reported between 16 November and 13 December 2020, 158 of which were related to violence and aggression.

The inspectors said staff did not treat patients respectfully, with four investigations ongoing.

The CQC’s report added: “Staff highlighted concerns with the culture at the hospital and felt stressed due to low staffing levels, patient aggression and wanted improved training and communication at the hospital.”

Despite the known risks to learning disability patients from coronavirus, CCTV footage showed 20 incidents last year where staff did not wear protective equipment.

The report found there was a 33 per cent shortage of nurses, while up to 100 per cent of staff on night shifts and 70 per cent of staff during day shifts were temporary agency workers.

The report added: “We reviewed a random selection of CCTV footage between 17 November and 12 December 2020 to observe how staff were managing patient observations. We found that in five out of five checks, staff were sleeping on duty.”

Dr Kevin Cleary, deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: “Our latest inspection of St John’s House found an unacceptable service where some staff interventions had demonstrated elements of patient abuse.

“This service’s failure to transparently refer all possible instances of abuse to us and thoroughly investigate concerns has put its patients at prolonged risk of harm.

“The hospital must ensure its patients’ dignity and safety by only using physical restraint as a last resort. It must also ensure that it has enough staff, who have received the right training, so that patients receive the quality of care to which they are entitled.”

The hospital will be re-inspected in six months and the CQC warned it could take further enforcement action.

A spokesperson for The Priory Group said: “We do not accept this standard of care in our services and have taken immediate action to deliver improvements at St John’s House.

“Senior management is overseeing the implementation of a comprehensive action plan to address all issues identified in the report, and we have already seen significant improvements in training compliance, the physical environment, upholding patient dignity, incident reporting and care planning.

“We have completed the required actions for 18 of the 24 key areas identified in the report, and are on track to complete the remainder within the timeframe agreed with the CQC.

“The service is now fully compliant with the required infection prevention and control procedures and we are committed to delivering all required improvements as swiftly as possible. Patient safety remains our absolute priority.”

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