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CQC issues warning to Walkern Lodge following learning disability inspection

16 January 2012
Walkern Lodge
Cygnet Learning Disabilities Limited
  • Media,
  • Long-term conditions services,
  • Mental health hospital services,
  • Rehabilitation (from illness or injury)

16 January 2012

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has issued a formal warning to Walkern Lodge independent hospital saying it must do more to improve standards of care or face further action.  

The warning follows a CQC inspection at the service in Walkern Road, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, on 23 and 24 November as part of CQC’s national learning disability review.

The review is a targeted programme of 150 unannounced inspections of hospitals and care homes that care for people with learning disabilities. It has been looking at whether people experience safe and appropriate care, treatment and support and whether they are protected from abuse.

CQC staff found that improvements were needed at Walkern Lodge in relation to safeguarding people who use services.

  • Staff were observed speaking in a disrespectful, discourteous and abrupt way to service users.
  • Inspectors found that concerns and allegations of abuse were not being properly responded to.
  • CQC found that staff were unaware of how to make a referral to the safeguarding team at the local authority or of their responsibilities with regard to safeguarding vulnerable adults.
  • The hospital’s policy on safeguarding vulnerable adults related to one produced for GP practices and was not suitable for the type of service operated at Walkern Lodge. 
  • Incidents that occurred at the home, which should have been reported to the local safeguarding team and CQC had not been.
  • There was no visible information on safeguarding or whistle blowing displayed in the unit for staff.
  • Members of staff did not demonstrate a clear understanding of restraint. Where restraint was being used this was not recognised as restraint. No records were being kept so that the level of restraint being used in the service could not be monitored.

This meant that standards were falling short of what people should be able to expect.

Frances Carey, Regional Director for the East of England, said: “The law says that these are the standards that everyone should be able to expect. Providers have a duty to ensure they are compliant.

“We have received an action plan from the owner of Walkern Lodge in relation to the concerns raised and we will be returning to the hospital to follow up on progress. When we do, we will expect the hospital to be able to demonstrate it has made improvements.

“This warning sends a clear message that Walkern Lodge needs to address these issues or face serious consequences.

“CQC has a range of legal powers it can use if it is found the required progress has not been made. Where necessary we will use these powers to protect the people who use this service.”

Walkern Lodge is an independent hospital that provides clinical care and rehabilitation services for up to six women with mental health needs and learning disabilities.

The full report of our inspectors’ visit will be published on CQC’s website shortly. 


For further information please contact Louise Grifferty, Regional Communications Manager, on 07717 422917 or the CQC press office on 0207 448 9401 or out of hours on 07917 232 143.

Notes to editors

The warning notices find that Cambian Learning Disabilities Limited, owner of Walkern Lodge, is in breach of Regulation 11, safeguarding people who use services, Health and Social Care Act (Regulated Activities) 2010.

A deadline of 20 January 2012 has been given for improvement. If the deadline is not met, CQC has a range of enforcement powers which include restricting the services that a provider can offer, or, in the most serious cases, suspending or cancelling a service. CQC can also issue financial penalty notices and cautions or prosecute the provider for failing to meet essential standards.   Any regulatory decision that CQC takes is open to challenge by a registered person through a variety of internal and external appeal processes.