Adolescent unit closes following inspection

A unit for adolescents with learning difficulties and mental health problems at a private hospital in Norfolk is closing, following an unannounced inspection by the Healthcare Commission. 

It is the first time the health watchdog has taken steps to urgently close a private inpatient unit.

The move follows an investigation of St Luke’s Hospital by the commission, which identified serious concerns about treatment and welfare of adolescents in the hospital’s 13 bed Harleston adolescent unit. 

There were particular concerns about the lack of procedures to ensure that staff had necessary clearances, qualifications and experience. Staff were not trained in caring for children with learning difficulties, including child protection issues, inspectors found.

The commission applied for an emergency order to close the Harleston unit.  But Mild Professional Homes, which owns St Luke’s Hospital, decided not to go to court and the company has voluntarily agreed to the closure of the unit. 

Six people who use the services have already moved elsewhere. Six remaining young people are currently waiting for new placements.

Only the adolescent unit at St Luke’s will close and its services for adults with learning difficulties and mental health problems remain open.

St Luke’s Hospital was only registered to treat adolescents patients in May this year.

Owners Mild Professional Homes has six other registered units for adults with learning difficulties and mental illness.

The Healthcare Commission checks all establishments registered with it annually. A spokesperson said the commission will monitor other units run by Mild Professional Homes as part of routine checks but is not planning any special investigations.

Mild Professional Homes declined to comment when contacted by Community Care.

Meanwhile the Healthcare Commission has published its draft strategy on learning difficulties for the next three years, which is now out for consultation.

Plans include:
• an audit of all inpatient care being provided for people with learning difficulties
• investigating remaining long stay hospitals for people with learning difficulties
• reviewing care of people with learning difficulties placed outside their local area
• increasing the accessibility of the commission’s services so that people with learning difficulties can make complaints about their care more easily.



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