Devon dementia unit misused painkillers, says CQC

Poor oversight by Devon Partnership NHS Trust led to excessive use of drugs to control dementia patients at one of its units, the...

Poor oversight by Devon Partnership NHS Trust led to an inappropriate use of drugs to control dementia patients at one of its units, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed in a report today.

The Harbourne Unit in Totnes, which was closed last July, was found to be routinely giving dementia patients painkillers to control their challenging behaviour. The CQC found there was no procedure in place for managing challenging behaviour.

The unit was an assessment and treatment centre for older people with organic mental health conditions and therefore dealt with many dementia patients.

The commission did not find similar concerns at other units run by the trust but warned there had been little central control and units were largely left to administer care as they saw fit. The report said there was “a lack of a clear, shared vision for older people’s services”.

Amanda Sherlock, CQC’s deputy director of operations, said: “Our report found that until these problems came to light, the trust appeared to have no oversight, leaving highly dedicated staff to cope without clear policies or guidance from the centre. The trust did not know whether standards of care were adequate or not.”

The report also found there was a low level of staffing at some of the trust’s facilities and it recommended that this was rectified.

The commission concluded that there had been improvements made by the trust and that the safety of patients could now be guaranteed, although there was still room for improvement. The trust has been registered with the CQC to provide older people’s mental health services but must make improvements to maintain its registration.

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