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Children harmed by mental health service failings, regulator says.


Young people cared for by an NHS mental health service came to harm because of its failings, health and care regulator inspectors said.

Care provided by Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) was rated "inadequate" by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The Trust has been stopped from admitting new patients after inspectors found "serious concerns" in the children and adolescent mental health services.

The CQC said that the inspection was prompted by a serious incident and information received about safety and quality.

Inspectors visited the Larkwood and Longview wards at the St Aubyn Centre, Colchester, and the Poplar Adolescent Unit, Rochford Hospital.

The CQC found observations were not always carried out safely and patients "had been harmed as a result of the poor practices" which included patients self-harming. It said these incidents were not always reported or dealt with appropriately.

The report found understaffing was a "significant concern" made worse by managers not ensuring staff had the appropriate skills and experience to look after vulnerable patients.

Many staff told inspectors they felt overworked and the use of agency staff meant they did not always "understand the needs of patients in their care.”

CQC head of hospital inspection, Stuart Dunn, said some "young people at the children and adolescent mental health wards came to harm as a result of their failings.”

He said the CQC had "imposed urgent conditions on the trust's registration requiring immediate action to keep patients safe. We are monitoring the trust closely and continue to work with system partners to ensure patient safety improves."

Among the imposed conditions, the Trust must not admit any new patients without CQC consent and it must also ensure that enough suitably skilled staff work on shifts to keep patients safe.

Inspectors also said the skills and experience of agency staff must be checked and approved before they work for the trust and staff must be "regular and familiar.”

The family of Elise Sebastian said she was 16 when she took her own life while a patient at the St Aubyn Centre.

In a statement they said she was considered high risk and was not supposed to be left alone in her room.

The statement said: "Elise was autistic and suffered with anxiety and depression. She was admitted to gain what we thought would be expert care to help her get better. The psychiatric care in Essex must be examined closely via a statutory inquiry."

EPUT chief executive, Paul Scott, said it took the CQC's findings very seriously. Following the inspections, the trust took immediate action to make to its services for children and their families including increasing staffing levels and delivering ongoing coaching and mentoring for staff.

He added: "Patient safety is our highest priority, and we continue to work closely with the CQC and our partners to improve standards and ensure every patient has access to the best care possible.