The NHS trust responsible for mental health in Lancashire has been told to improve by inspectors.
The regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) highlighted 37 breaches of legal regulation at Lancashire Care, which runs The Harbour mental health hospital in Preston New Road, Marton.
A report said there were “significant concerns about patient safety, privacy, and dignity”, while patients were being detained in places of safety – like at Blackpool Victoria Hospital – longer than they should have been. “Patients were subject to restrictive intervention without the appropriate legal safeguards in place,” it said.
“This practice had become routine. This had not improved since our last inspection.”
The CQC said the trust was “not providing consistently safe care” on acute working-age adult wards and psychiatric intensive care units, and said there were “not sufficient numbers of suitably trained staff”.
Community mental health teams had “unacceptable waiting times”, while problems with places of safety and mental health decision units were “symptomatic of an acute care pathway that did not function effectively”.
And there was not strategy to look after people with personality disorders, which “resulted in some people ... being admitted to an acute ward whose admission might have been avoided”.
Lancashire Care, which has faced criticised by politicians and health bosses in recent years, was given an overall rating of ‘requires improvement’ – above only ‘inadequate’. It was given the same score in four out of five key areas: Safety, effectiveness, responsiveness, and leadership. It was ranked ‘good’ for levels of caring.
Staff were found to be “kind, caring, and motivated”, with 10 out of 14 of the trust’s core services ranked ‘good’ overall, including the child and adolescent ward.
Lancashire Care’s boss Caroline Donovan, who has been in charge since April, said sorry for the trust’s failings.
She said the CQC’s findings are “disappointing but not unanticipated as the reports echo” a recent review carried out into Lancashire Care by experts from a top-rated trust in the north east.
She said: “We realise that some of the issues identified in the previous inspection still remain and we apologise for that. The people who use our services deserve better and we will work tirelessly with our dedicated staff to make the required improvements as a matter of urgency.
“We are already making progress on the delivery of an improvement plan and have secured investment to help us with this.”
Ms Donovan said patients and their families have “be assured” that leadership at Lancashire Care has been “significantly strengthened recently” and pledged: “We are all working with one overarching objective in mind, to improve our performance and provide a service we can be proud of”.
Ms Donovan paid tribute to medics across the county, who were found to be “kind, caring, and motivated” by the CQC. She added: “We want to thank all our staff for everything they do – sometimes in exceptionally challenging circumstances – for our patients and their families”.
And she said she was “delighted” that two services – The Cove inpatient unit in Morecambe and dental – have been ranked ‘good’.
The CQC's full report can be read here.