Secure mental health unit given warning notice over staffing issues
A SECURE mental health unit has been issued with a warning notice after inspectors found it did not have enough qualified and skilled staff.
Care Quality Commission inspectors visited the Fromeside unit on the Blackberry Hill Hospital site in Fishponds in December and were told by employees that they believed the staffing situation was "a serious incident waiting to happen".
Five weeks after the inspection a convicted killer absconded from the care of staff from the unit while on an escorted outing. Michael Harris, 26, who had been detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act after stabbing his friend Carl James in Swindon six years ago, was found dead on a railway line near Temple Meads on January 11.
His funeral was held yesterday.
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Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, which runs the unit, has been given a week to report back to the health regulator about how it will address its concerns.
The medium secure unit provides care and treatment for adults with mental health disorders that may put them at significant risk of harming themselves or others.
Inspectors found that because there were not enough staff on the unit patients did not always get the care or treatment they needed. They found that planned community leave was regularly cancelled or disrupted because there were not enough staff to escort them, which caused "disappointment, frustration and anger".
The CQC said it had received "concerning information" about staffing levels at Fromeside in August. The trust had assured the regulator that arrangements had been made to better cover shifts at short notice. However, during the unannounced visit staff said some covering staff "did not have the necessary specialist training to work on a medium secure unit".
The report said: "Staff told us they sometimes raised incident forms when they considered staffing levels to be unsafe. They said staff shortage had become so commonplace that they had become tired of reporting their concerns as they perceived that nothing was done about it."
The inspectors were told that patients only had access to ward gardens under supervision for a maximum of 15 minutes every hour because somebody had attempted to abscond from one.
A spokesman for AWP said: "The very specialist nature of our forensic services and the need for us to ensure we have experienced and highly trained staff in this environment has and will continue to be a challenge.
"We recognise that where staffing levels drop or are changed to address other security priorities on the Fromeside site, this can and did impact on our ability to provide some planned escorted community leave, and the trust is working to ensure that any such cancellations are kept to a minimum."