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Cedar House hospital in Barham rated inadequate and placed in special measures after CQC inspection

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A hospital for people with mental health issues has been plunged into special measures after inspectors concluded it was an "unclean, unsafe and unpleasant place to live".

Cedar House in Barham, near Canterbury, has been banned from taking on any more patients and faces being shut down if it does not make urgent improvements.

Cedar House is located just outside Canterbury
Cedar House is located just outside Canterbury

The specialist hospital, which cares for up to 39 people with learning disabilities and autism, was visited by the health watchdog in January after it received "concerning information" about its care, treatment, leadership and staffing.

Inspectors found wards in a state of disrepair, with damaged floors, rotten and boarded-up windows, leaking baths and sewage problems.

They said one annexe lacked "basic rights of privacy, dignity or humane treatment", with food and drink passed through a window and the bathroom fully viewable by staff.

The CQC's head of hospital inspection, Karen Bennett-Wilson, said the regulator was "worried" about people's experience of living at the site.

“All the wards were unclean and in a state of disrepair which made it an unsafe and unpleasant place for people to live," she said.

"We saw damaged flooring, boarded-up windows, rotten window frames, damaged furniture, leaking baths and sewage problems."

She said some areas were not fit for purpose, including an enhanced low secure ward that needed to be closed down but was being kept open until alternative care placements could be found.

"This is unacceptable and placements need to be found speedily," she said.

Inspectors discovered patients were often "stuck on wards with nothing to do" due to staff shortages, with some spending all day watching television.

Two wards were found to be "noisy and decorated with extremely bright colours", which inspectors concluded would be "overwhelming" for people with sensory processing difficulties.

Leadership was also found to be ineffective, with staff not receiving adequate training.

Ms Bennett-Wilson said patients' care plans did not include goals to support them to move out of the hospital, with one left waiting to be discharged for more than 10 years due to a lack of accommodation in the community.

She continued: “Staff didn’t have the right training to support people, and relatives didn’t feel assured staff could manage their family member’s complex needs, but they weren’t invited to assist with planning care for their loved one.

“Managers weren’t supporting or supervising staff properly or sharing feedback and learning from incidents with staff."

However, the service was praised in some areas.

Patients told inspectors staff "treated them well and behaved kindly", and supported them to give feedback on their care.

Medicines were also stored safely and securely, with staff reviewing each person's medication regularly and providing advice.

The CQC found people's risks were often assessed, recorded and reviewed, with patients involved in managing their own risks and developing their care.

Staff were also said to be working well with other services to ensure patients had the right care and support in place when they returned home.

"All the wards were unclean and in a state of disrepair which made it an unsafe and unpleasant place for people to live..."

It is not the first time Cedar House has received a damning report from the CQC.

The hospital was rated inadequate and placed into special measures in July 2020 after inspectors were left shocked by its dirty toilets, damp ceilings and excessive use of restraint.

It was taken over that November by Coveberry Limited, which helped lift the premises’ CQC rating to requires improvement in August 2021.

But following the unannounced inspection earlier this year, the facility's overall rating has plunged back down to inadequate - the lowest grade possible.

Afterwards, Coveberry was told to make "immediate and ongoing" improvements, but the CQC concluded the provider has not been able to offer enough assurance that it would be able to address the concerns.

It has therefore placed the service in special measures, which means it will be reinspected in six months.

Ms Bennett-Wilson said conditions had been imposed preventing the service from admitting any more patients until changes had been made.

The Care Quality Commission has published a damning report about care delivered to mental health patients at Cedar House
The Care Quality Commission has published a damning report about care delivered to mental health patients at Cedar House

She added: "We continue to monitor the service closely. If the required improvements aren’t made, we will consider taking further action which could lead to closure of the service.”

Coveberry says it takes the advice "extremely seriously", and a new medical director, hospital director and head of nursing have been recruited since the inspection to help drive forward improvements.

More cleaning and domestic staff have also been hired as part of a "robust recruitment plan", and cleaning has been enhanced.

“The welfare and safety of the residents is our top priority, and we take the feedback from our external partners seriously," the spokesman said.

"We are taking steps to improve the hospital's environment through significant investment and an environmental improvement plan.

"We acknowledge that there is still work to be done and remain committed to working with the CQC, the local authority and other partners to implement any remaining improvements as soon as possible.

"We would like to reassure the residents and their families that we take the situation extremely seriously, and our priority is to appropriately address all of the issues raised."

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