Watchdog slams care at hospital for vulnerable adults

A health service watchdog has heavily criticised a hospital after inspectors found allegations of abuse were not being properly responded to, while staff were disrespectful to patients and had no clear understanding of restraint.

The Care Quality Commission issued a formal warning to Walkern Lodge – a private care home for women with learning disabilities in Stevenage and said it must improve standards or face legal action.

A surprise inspection in late November found employees at the home which provides clinical care and rehabilitation services for up to six women, lacked proper measures to safeguard them. Staff were seen speaking in a disrespectful way to residents, did not deal appropriately with concerns and allegations of abuse, and did not demonstrate a clear understanding of restraint.

“Where restraint was being used this was not recognised as restraint. No records were being kept so the level of restraint being used in the service could not be monitored,” a commission spokesman said.

The report also said the hospital’s policy on safeguarding residents was drawn up for GP practices and unsuited to the home. Staff were unaware how to make a referral to Herts County Council or of their responsibilities to safeguard vulnerable adults. Incidents that should have been reported to the local authority and the commission had not been.


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Frances Carey, CQC regional director, said: “The law says these are the standards that everyone should be able to expect. Providers have a duty to ensure they are compliant.”

She added: “We have received an action plan from the owner of Walkern Lodge in relation to the concerns raised and we will be returning to the hospital to follow up on progress. When we do, we will expect the hospital to be able to demonstrate it has made improvements.

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“This warning sends a clear message that Walkern Lodge needs to address these issues or face serious consequences.”

The commission has a range of legal powers it can use if the required improvements are not shown to be in place by Friday, including fines, reducing the services, and closing the home down.

A spokesman for care group Cambian which runs Walkern Lodge, said it was working with the commission and the Herts County Council and North Herts and Stevenage Community Learning Disability safeguarding team to remedy the situation.

“We are working collaboratively through a transparent and open dialogue and have developed a clear action plan to address these concerns. We have made immediate changes to staff, training and administration reporting systems. We are confident that these changes will receive full approval on the return CQC visit.

“We have also discussed the content of the CQC report with the relevant primary care trusts that use this service. They are satisfied with the action that we are taking and continue to have confidence in this service. Further to the CQC visit, a further two unannounced visits have been undertaken by two primary care trusts. The inspectors from one of these commented that they are ‘confident that service users are safe at Walkern Lodge and being treated with dignity and respect’.”

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