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'Serious concerns' over Broadmoor suicides

The mental health trust which runs Broadmoor high-security hospital in Berkshire has been criticised by the independent health watchdog over its high suicide rates and failure to protect patients.

A Care Quality Commission report published today found that West London Mental Health NHS trust had not shown sufficient vigour in tackling ‘serious concerns’ the Commission had about sub-standard buildings, bed shortages, inadequate physical health care, a lack of staff and staff training.

Commission chairman Barbara Young, said: ‘Given the nature of its services, the organisation should be leading the way in managing risks, yet in some instances they tolerated poor and mediocre practices.’

‘The same problems about managing risk, overcrowding, sub-standard buildings and staff shortages were raised on a number of occasions, yet the trust’s response was slow and piecemeal.

‘The trust was good at writing policies, but not good at putting them into action,’ she added.

The review found that staff were confused over the investigation of serious incidents, some of which were suicides.

It highlighted concerns that patients had hanged themselves from window bars.

It also criticised the amount of time taken over investigations and suggested the trust did not learn from previous incidents.

The report referred to a report published in 2003 by the Commission for Health Improvement, a previous regulator, which said that Broadmoor Hospital was ‘totally unfit for purpose’.

A statement from the trust said it accepted the recommendations in the report.

New chief executive Peter Cubbon said: ‘There are lessons to be learnt from the investigation.

‘The trust has already made progress in implementing a number of the recommendations…Working with our commissioners and NHS London we will ensure that patient safety is a top priority for all at West London Mental Health Trust.’

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said:  ‘Unfortunately this report shows again what can happen to patient care when staffing levels become woefully low.

‘When a quarter of jobs are left unfilled, leaving staff working 15 hour shifts, it simply becomes impossible to deliver the right level of care that patients need and deserve.’

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