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Chief Inspector of Hospitals recommends Huntercombe Hospital- Stafford exits special measures following Care Quality Commission inspection

16 May 2017
Huntercombe Hospital - Stafford
  • Media,
  • Hospitals,
  • Mental health hospital services

England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals has recommended that Huntercombe Hospital- Stafford should exit special measures following a Care Quality Commission inspection which rates the hospital as Requires Improvement overall.  

The hospital, which cares for children and adolescents aged between eight and 18 with mental health needs, was placed into special measures in August 2016 when it was rated Inadequate by CQC. At that time, inspectors found there was no effective system in place to safeguard the well-being of patients and there were 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, needed to make a number of improvements to ensure it was consistently delivering care which was safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

Inspectors visited the hospital again between 30 January and 1 February 2017 and found, while further work was still needed, a number of significant improvements had been made, resulting in the recommendation that the service should now exit special measures.

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

“On our return to Huntercombe Hospital– Stafford, we found a number of improvements had been made and, although further work is needed, we recommend that the hospital now exits special measures."

“Previously 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."

“At that time, 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."

“When we returned we found that the hospital had introduced training to reduce the dependency of staff on restraint and other restrictive practices. Senior staff reviewed incidents daily and shared any learning from these. Also, staff assessed the physical health care needs of young people and made sure that patients’ views were reflected in care planning."

“After the hospital was placed into special measures, managers and directors listened to staff in a series of days to review the events that resulted in CQC’s rating. Managers committed to an ongoing programme of meetings and action to engage staff in the development of the hospital, and there were regular forums to hear the views of young people on their care and the hospital’s improvement plan."

“We have maintained close contact with the service and partner agencies in the time between our inspections. The hospital has clearly benefitted from the support it received from the special measures regime. We will continue to monitor the service and will return to check on the progress of the further improvements that need to be made.”

There are a number of areas where further improvements are needed, including:

  • The provider must ensure that any blanket restrictions are removed and any ongoing restrictions are based on individualised risk assessments of young people.
  • The provider must ensure that policies and training on rapid tranquilisation are up to date with NICE guidance.
  • The provider must provide sufficient, appropriate and co-ordinated therapeutic activities, and access to psychological therapies must be available on all wards.
  • The provider must introduce a management structure to encompass therapy staff and provide ongoing support through supervision and appraisals.
  • The provider must ensure that clinical staff are trained in the Mental Health Act and revised code of practice.
  • The provider must ensure that all assessments of mental capacity are complete, and refer to both diagnostic and functional tests, and that a young person’s right to refuse treatment is included in the description of Gillick competency*. The provider must introduce an audit of their compliance with the Mental Capacity Act and the application of Gillick competency.

Huntercombe Hospital-Stafford is rated as Requires Improvement overall, Requires Improvement for whether services are safe, effective, responsive and well-led and Good for whether its services are caring.

The full report including ratings of all core services is available on our website.


For further information please contact Louise Grifferty, Regional Engagement Manager on 0191 2333379. 

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Last updated:
29 May 2017

Notes to editors

*Gillick competence is a term used in medical law to decide whether a child (under 16 years of age) is able to consent to his or her own medical treatment, without the need for parental permission or knowledge.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, is leading significantly larger inspection teams than before, headed up by clinical and other experts including trained members of the public.
Whenever CQC inspects it will always ask the following five questions of every service:
  • Are they safe?
  • Are they effective?
  • Are they caring?
  • Are they responsive to people’s needs?
  • Are they well-led?
Since 1 April, registered providers of health and social care services have been required to display their ratings on their premises and on their websites so that the public can see their rating quickly and easily.

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.