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Chief Inspector of Hospitals places Huntercombe Hospital- Stafford into special measures following Care Quality Commission inspection

1 September 2016
  • Media,
  • Hospitals

England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals has placed Huntercombe Hospital- Stafford into special measures after a Care Quality Commission inspection resulted in it receiving an overall rating of Inadequate.

An urgent, unannounced inspection was carried out in April 2016 following serious concerns highlighted to the commission. The CQC found that there was no effective system in place to safeguard the well-being of the young people at the hospital.

An announced inspection in May 2016 found further causes for serious concern regarding the staffing, management and clinical practice at the hospital.

CQC inspectors found the independent hospital, which provides child and adolescent mental health inpatient services for up to 39 young people aged eight to18 years, needed to make a number of improvements to ensure it was consistently delivering care which was safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

The hospital was judged as Inadequate for being safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals (and lead for mental health), Dr Paul Lelliott, said:

“We found a number of serious problems when we inspected the services run by Huntercombe Hospital-Stafford and have subsequently placed the service into special measures.

“We were concerned that the safety of young people using the service was compromised due to insufficient staffing levels, restrictive interventions, poor physical health monitoring and a poorly trained and supervised workforce.

“Personal searches were ineffective in preventing young people from obtaining contraband items to use to harm themselves. In addition, staff did not store medication securely in all areas.

“Staff often used physical restraint as a first, rather than last, response to a patient’s distress. Staff did not accurately document restraints and failed to offer follow up care to the young people involved. Also, situations that could lead to aggressive or disturbed behaviour were not being routinely de-escalated.

“Feedback from young people and their carers was largely negative and reflected a hospital that did not take into account the individual needs of those using the service. Young people were not involved in care planning and care plans were not shared with them. Some carers described staff behaviour as punitive.

“Despite being aware of the safety concerns at the hospital, the executive team within the wider Huntercombe group did not act or respond at the pace required to address the issues in a timely or decisive manner.

“We have maintained close contact with the service and partner agencies since the inspection and will undertake further inspections, including unannounced visits to check that the necessary improvements have been made.”

The inspection highlighted a number of concerns and areas where the trust must improve, including:

  • The provider must ensure that entry to the hospital is controlled and that it maintains the safety of the young people by following a process of security checks on people at the point they enter and leave.
  • The provider must ensure that all staff are skilled in, and have adequate knowledge of, local safeguarding procedures.
  • The provider must ensure that emergency equipment is ready and safe to use through regular checks and testing.
  • The provider must ensure that ward environments are compliant with standards relating to mixed gender accommodation.
  • The provider must ensure that out of hours medical cover for the hospital guarantees that patients have access to psychiatric specialists at all times.
  • The provider must ensure that staff complete care plans and risk assessments and review these regularly.
  • The provider must improve the extent to which carers and family are involved in the young person’s care.

The full report including ratings of all core services will publish on the CQC website tomorrow (Wednesday, 31 August) at the following link:


For further information, please contact Helen Gildersleeve, Regional Engagement Manager on 0191 2333379. Journalists wishing to speak to the press office outside of office hours can find out how to contact the team here. Please note: the press office is unable to advise members of the public on health or social care matters.

For general enquiries, please call 03000 61 61 61.

Last updated:
29 May 2017

Notes to editors


The team that inspected the hospital comprised of a Mental Health Act Reviewer, clinical pharmacist, five CQC inspectors, an assistant inspector and an inspection manager.


Huntercombe Hospital-Stafford is divided into three separate wards; Hartley, Thorneycroft and Wedgewood. A dedicated consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist leads each ward team. The Huntercombe Group is the provider for the service. 


Services placed in special measures will be inspected again within six months. If insufficient improvements have been made, we will take action in line with our enforcement procedures to begin the process of preventing the provider from operating the service. This will lead to cancelling their registration or placing restrictions on their registration. 


Whenever CQC inspects it will always ask the following five questions of every service: Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it caring? Is it responsive to people’s needs? Is it well-led? You can find out more about CQC’s approach to inspection on our website at


Registered providers of health and social care services are required to display their ratings on their premises and on their websites so that the public can see their rating quickly and easily. For further information on the requirement for providers to prominently display their CQC ratings, please visit:


About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.