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Mental health hospital near campus "inadequate"

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Image: Gordon Hatton

The Retreat has come under fire after a Care Quality Commission inspection. At the most recent meeting of the Health, Housing and Adult Social Care Policy and Scrutiny Committee in mid-September, some worrying issues surrounding the independent hospital were alluded to - including reports of inadequate staffing levels.

Situated on the edges of the University grounds, the Retreat specialises in caring for those with complex mental health disorders and learning disabilities. The CQC report, published in June, slammed the care provider with an overall rating of "inadequate". The report's findings are particularly damning with regards to the inspection categories of "safe" and "well-led", rating them both as 'inadequate'.

The report flagged up specific safety issues such as blind spots where patients could not be seen by staff and ligature points. A ligature point refers to a place that patients could use to tie something to in order to strangle themselves. Given that the website for the Retreat's care programmes boasts "reduction in self harm" among the positive outcomes of the treatment offered at the centre, it may not be a huge leap to assume that some patients suffer from suicidal tendencies - making these ligature points particularly dangerous.

The CQC report also found there to be "unsafe and unsuitable staffing levels and skill mix" on hospital units, due to a reliance on agency staff. This left only one qualified nurse allocated to cover both the Allis and George Jepson units on a regular basis.

The Retreat's Marketing and Communications manager revealed to us that "following the inspection four staff members were suspended and two were no longer in place". They also highlighted problems of bullying within the staff team, suggesting that "a change was needed to the overall culture". The CQC report emphasised that "staff whistleblowing and feeling able to raise concerns internally had been a concern at other inspections", but the Retreat's Marketing and Communications manager was keen to assure the committee that bullying only involved a small cohort of staff.

When asked to expand on the nature of the bullying and how the Retreat plans to combat this culture, the Marketing and Communications manager declined to comment. We also put to them the concerns raised in the meeting about inadequate staffing levels, and asked how they intended to ensure that there was no failure of care. Again, the Retreat declined their right of reply, citing the information as confidential.

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