A mental health hospital has been told to urgently improve the care it provides its patients.
St Ann’s Hospital, in St Ann’s Road, Tottenham, has been formally warned by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after inspectors found its practices did not ensure the “safety and welfare” of patients.
Inspectors, who visited the hospital in November, found the hospital was still using seclusion rooms, which are meant to keep dangerous mental health patients, as extra bed spaces.
The rooms are unfurnished, except for a mattress, and cannot be opened from the inside – so if a door was accidently closed then the patient would be locked in the room.
The CQC previously warned that this practice was “not appropriate to ensure the dignity or protection” of patients, following an inspection in June.
The Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust, which runs the hospital, had promised to stop the practice and submitted an action plan to ensure it would never happen again.
However, the new report by the CQC, published on January 8, found that seclusion rooms were still used as spare bedrooms.
Patients were kept in those rooms on eight occasions, for more than 30 nights, between August 28, 2013, and November 17, 2013.
The report said: “This practice compromised the dignity and wellbeing of people who used the service, and led to a serious risk that people would not receive appropriate care and treatment.”
Inspectors also revealed that some patients were not aware of whether or not they had been detained under the Mental Health Act or whether they had been admitted to the ward informally.
This affects the legal status of the patient and what type of care they can receive.
An inspector said: “We also found that some patients were not protected against the risk of receiving care or treatment which was inappropriate because staff were not always aware of the legal status of patients so there was a risk that people may be treated unlawfully.”
St Ann’s Hospital and the mental health trust have been told to improve the quality of care and could face large fines and other enforcement action if they fail to do so.
Matthew Trainer, the regional director of CQC in London, said patients are entitled to be treated in services which are safe, effective, caring, well run, and responsive to their needs.
He said: "Their seclusion rooms are just not suitable for use as bedrooms.
“Even if doors are left open, people in the rooms have severely restricted access to other facilities in the hospital.
“People should not be spending any longer than necessary there.”
The hospital has previously been criticised for having so few beds for mental health patients at a time when the incidence of the people suffering for a mental health problem is increasing.
Mary Sexton, the director of nursing, quality and governance at the mental health trust, spoke of her disappointment on received the warning from the CQC.
She said: “As has been reported in the local media, there is significant pressure on our mental health inpatient beds, which reflects the trend across London and the rest of the country.
“As a result of this pressure there have been instances where seclusion rooms have been used as an absolute last resort for a patient after being unable to locate a bed elsewhere, within the Trust, within London or even nationally.
“However, this is clearly not good clinical practice and we have ceased the use of seclusion rooms for this purpose.”
Ms Sexton said the safety and welfare of patients and service users the trust’s number one priority and it aims to act in their best interests at all times.
She added: “We have recently reconfigured our assessment services for patients referred to the Trust to reduce pressure on the inpatient service.
“And we are working very closely with our commissioners to address the increased demand the trust has encountered over recent months so that we can continue to provide our patients and service users with high quality and safe care.”
The CQC has said inspectors will return unannounced to the hospital in the near future to check that the required changes have been made.