A WARD at a mental health hospital in Hexham has been inspected following concerns over patient safety.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published a report following a focused responsive inspection of the Franklin ward at Cygnet Hospital Hexham.

The hospital, on Anick Road, is a 27-bed mental health facility for women with complex mental health needs ran by Cygnet Healthcare.

The service has two wards - the Franklin ward, a 10-bed Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and the Fisher ward, a 17-bed acute ward for females aged 18 years and over.

An inspection of the Franklin ward took place in April, after there had been several self-harm incidents where patients had required hospital treatment and there were concerns that the risks were not being managed appropriately.

The CQC said during the inspection they found staff had learnt from these incidents and had made changes in relation to assessing and managing patient risks. 

This involved removing high risk items from patients and increasing observation levels.

As this was only a focused inspection, Cygnet Hospital Hexham, ran by Cygnet Healthcare, was not re-rated as the service type had changed since the CQC's previous comprehensive inspection in May 2019.

At that inspection, enforcement action was taken, and the service was rated inadequate and placed in special measures.

The service - then named Cygnet Chesterholme - had provided wards for adults with a learning disability and/or autism.

The hospital closed in September 2019 and re-opened in October 2020, instead providing acute admission and psychiatric intensive care wards. 

Their previous rating of inadequate remains. 

Brian Cranna, CQC’s head of hospital inspection for mental health, said: “When we visited Cygnet Hospital Hexham in April, we were pleased to find that staff had learnt from incidents which had taken place and made improvements to keep patients safe. 

“The seclusion room allowed clear observation and two-way communication. However, we found that it was also very small, and patients had limited space to move around the room when the mattress was on the floor. When staff needed to enter the room, patients had to stand in the toilet area for staff to be able to enter safely, which is not appropriate. 

“We were pleased to see that staff knew about any potential ligature risks. Issues with curtain rails had been identified, as well as the tables having square corners, these had been reported to get them changed to ensure patient safety. 

“Staff made every attempt to avoid using restraint by using de-escalation techniques. Patients were only restrained when these techniques failed to keep people safe. 

“The leadership team are aware of the actions they need to take, and we will continue to monitor the service to ensure the required improvements are made and embedded.” 

Inspectors found the ward did not have sufficient space for patients to provide a safe and therapeutic environment, and the CQC have asked the provider to ensure the service reviews this.

They also said the service 'should continue with the recruitment programme to ensure that the hospital has a stable staff team who understand the needs of the patients who use the service'.

However, inspectors did find that the ward was clean and well maintained, and that the service was well led.

The report also said staff assessed and managed risk well, and they minimised the use of restrictive practices and followed good practice with respect to safeguarding.

A spokesperson for Cygnet Hospital Hexham said: “We are pleased that the first inspection of the new service at Cygnet Hospital Hexham is such a positive one, with the Care Quality Commission recognising our good track record on safety, and that staff manage risks well. We are particularly proud that the service users themselves on Franklin Ward told the CQC inspectors they felt safe and that staff supported them.

"Having opened the new service at the end of last year, we take our responsibilities seriously, providing expert, intensive, short-term, individualised care for service users with the aim of supporting them to move to less restrictive care settings and ultimately return home.

"As the CQC report notes, staff provide safe and effective care and follow best practice guidelines. Concerns about self-harm related to two patients during their admission to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit and the report states the service managed patient safety incidents well.

"While the hospital meets national specifications, we have taken on board the inspectors’ feedback and made changes, including to expand the size of the dining and communal areas and this provides a safe and therapeutic environment for our service users.

"We are naturally disappointed that the CQC did not award a rating for the new service this time which would have reflected on the transformation of the hospital; however we look forward to building on this positive assessment of Franklin Ward and to being able to demonstrate to new staff and to service users’ families the strong support that is available for people in the region who are experiencing mental ill-health and need help.

"Cygnet Hospital Hexham provides a much-needed service for people within the North East of England, with referrals coming to Franklin Ward from all areas.”

To read the report in full, visit https://www.cqc.org.uk/location/1-894198689