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Failing Mental Health Unit to Reopen in Dorchester

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7:19am 27th February 2013
(Updated 2:22pm 27th February 2013)

A mental health ward at Forston Clinic will reopen in April after a damning report found major failings with the facility and staff.

Minterne Ward is a 14 bed locked acute assessment unit.

The Care Quality Commission found the ward wasn't cleaned properly, staff didn't make sure the building was safe and there weren't enough staff to keep patients safe.

You can view the FULL REPORT HERE:

James Barton is Director of Mental Health Services for Dorset Healthcare.

He has released this statement to Wessex FM:

"Substantial improvements have been made to Minterne Ward at Forston Clinic since the Care Quality Commission first undertook its report (which is being published today).

We value and take very seriously the feedback the CQC gave us and, after reviewing the situation, we made the decision to close Minterne Ward (just before Christmas) until all of the CQC's concerns had been addressed and resolved.

We want to provide inpatient care that we can be proud of, which is why we've invested a huge amount of time, energy and resource to make sure Minterne Ward, when it reopens in April, will be a service we can take pride in.

More than £1 million has been invested in refurbishing the ward and building a new seclusion facility which will comply with all of the latest requirements.

We are also taking the opportunity, whilst the ward is closed, to make sure that our staffing levels are bolstered before the ward reopens. We are in the process of recruiting to increase overall staff numbers by 39 per cent. This strengthened team of staff will be further boosted by a robust new leadership structure, consisting of a ward manager, a matron and a full-time consultant.

In addition, all staff who will be working in the new ward when it reopens have been undergoing a very comprehensive, bespoke training programme. The CQC criticised the historic culture of the ward as being 'restrictive' at times - and we want this to change. Care should always be recovery focused and the dedicated training that staff have been participating in covers a wide range of topics, all focused on the fundamental principles of delivering care and the values that underpin this.

We're confident that, as a Trust, we have responded in a very positive manner to the feedback from the CQC. We are sorry that the standards of care sometimes weren't as high as patients always deserve, which is why we've worked hard to address all the issues raised by the Commission. We are determined to ensure the best possible inpatient care for our patients at what is often a very worrying and vulnerable time for them.

It is important to be clear that Forston Clinic's other mental health care ward, Melstock House, is not connected in any way to the CQC's findings. In fact CQC inspectors commended the services and care provided on this neighbouring ward.

We will continue to keep the CQC informed of all the actions we have taken in response to its report and we also plan to host an open day immediately before the reopening of Minterne Ward. This will allow patients, staff and members of the public to see for themselves the improvements we have made and our commitment to maintaining a high level of care across all of our services."

HUGS - The Hughes Unit Service Users group have released this statement to Wessex FM:

Report on Minterne and Melstock wards at Forston Clinic by the Care Quality Commission  449 words.

The Care Quality Commission has born out the reports and fears of HUGS members. Our members report favourably on Melstock ward however their views on Minterne ward are very different. Melstock ward is for people aged 65 years and over and Minterne ward is for people aged 18 to 64.

Minterne Ward has the reputation of a very tightly regimented regime. For Instance the access to the outside or for a smoke is very controlled. According to the report there are no outside activities. I believe that there is a gym at Minterne ward but it is not used because of lack of staffing

We know of carers who were desperate to move their loved ones from Minterne ward and of patients who refuse to go there.

Minterne Ward has been described as like being in prison. The report criticises consultation with the patient, it states that the information available to the patient is inadequate and patients are not given sufficient information about their rights. It also states that staff did not always listen to the patients. We know of such instances.

It's frightening being mentally ill; patients don't need this as well.

There are major issues in the report about patient safety; the report states that low staffing levels were in evidence, at times, too low for patient safety.

Any closed community can suffer from physical and mental bullying and lead to a culture of bullying. It is vital that there are enough trained staff to ensure this does not happen. Clearly the CQC found instances where this was not the case.

The commission comment, in some instances, on the lack of staff training and the need for it. The report states senior managers did not regularly check Minterne ward to make sure care was good and people were safe.

It is dangerous if care plans and medical records are not kept up-to-date and passed on correctly between shifts and when patients arrive at or leave the unit. The report states that such records were not kept up to date.

Perhaps the most damning thing is that the inadequate care referred to in the March 2012 CQC report had not been addressed by December 2012; indeed the situation had deteriorated much further.

It appears that Minterne Ward is understaffed, which is in its turn created by underfunding, like all the mental health service. Let us hope that when the ward reopens following refurbishment there will be improved premises and enough trained staff to meet the patient’s needs and all these issues will be fully resolved.

But this improvement must not be paid for by other units, elsewhere, being closed, or any reduction in other frontline services.



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