Sheffield NHS service failed to protect patients from abuse and ignored basic needs like food and drink says CQC report

An NHS service for Sheffield residents with autism or learning disabilities has been told it is no longer free to take new patients, after serious concerns emerged about its work.

By David Kessen
Thursday, 15th July 2021, 9:28 am

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Assessment and Treatment Service (ATS), known as Firshill Rise, has been banned from admitted new patients without written permission from The Care Quality Commission due to failings which they believe means the service’s users are not being protected, and amid allegations of failings by the service’s leadership.

The move follows an inspection by the commission in the Spring, in which inspectors said they saw staff talking among themselves while ignoring patients’ needs, and failures to protect their patients from abuse. The QCQ’s report is published today.

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Firshill rise

Inspectors visited the trust in April and May to look at the service, near Pitsmoor, which has seven beds and provides assessment and support to people with a learning disability or autistic people who are experiencing mental health needs and difficulties with behaviour.

It was an unannounced inspection, which they were carrying out after safeguarding concerns were raised by trust staff and other health and social care providers.

Firshill Rise was last inspected in October 2018 and was rated good overall. But the CQC at that time told the service it needed to take action to improve staff induction, training in managing aggression and violence and also, and to improve how it learns from incidents.

The latest inspection revealed they had failed to address all the issues, leading to the restrictions that have now been imposed.

Firshill rise

The ATS which had previously been rated as good is now inadequate overall. It is rated inadequate in all five areas, for being caring, effective, responsive, safe and well-led.

Debbie Ivanova, CQC’s deputy chief inspector for people with a learning disability and autistic people, said: “When we inspected the Assessment and Treatment Service at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, we were disappointed to find that a number of concerns raised at the previous inspection in October 2018 had not been addressed and the overall rating for the service has now dropped from good to inadequate.

“People were not being looked after in a way that was safe, effective, or caring. We saw staff ignoring a person for basic needs like food and drink, and staff were seen talking amongst themselves rather than engaging with people using this service.

“Some people had been living in the service for a long time which can lead to people becoming institutionalised. We met one person who had not been able to leave the service since January 2021 as they required rescue medication to prevent epilepsy seizures, but staff had not been trained in how to administer it.

Fireshill Rise

“Before the inspection we were made aware of historical safeguarding incidents involving evidence of harm being caused to people. External organisations were investigating these along with the trust, but this investigation was significantly delayed as staff had not reported or escalated the incidents which caused harm.

“Despite these issues being historical, staff still did not understand how to protect people from abuse and the service did not work well with other organisations to do so, which meant people remained at risk of abuse and avoidable harm at the time of inspection.

She said staff and people using the service were being let down by senior leadership not addressing issues which are known problems.

Due to the concerns, the commission has imposed conditions on the trust’s registration for the service, which prevent it from admitting people to the service without written agreement from CQC. The trust has also been ordered to submit regular updates detailing the improvements it has made.

The commission is monitoring the service closely and will take further action to protect people if it is not assured that rapid improvements in the safety of care are being made.

Inspectors found:

> The service was not safe as staff did not have the training and skills to care for people and respond to their needs.

> Medicines were not managed safely and there was no policy or protocol regarding people self-administering medicines or care plans for as needed medicines.

> Relatives were not involved in the development of people’s care or their discharge. This meant that people didn’t receive person centred care which prioritised their individual needs, and often stayed in the service for much longer lengths of time than they needed to.

> The service was not caring. Inspectors saw staff ignoring people’s request of basic needs of food and drink and staff talked amongst themselves rather than engaging with people using the service.

> People experienced harm because of a lack of protection, they experienced abusive incidents, restraint and seclusion. People had poor relationships with staff which were not therapeutic.

> The service was not well led. Governance processes had not ensured the delivery of safe and high-quality care. There was no ward manager in the service and the modern matron and general manager were new to their role.

> There was a lack of visible leadership, staff did not feel listened to, and management failed to act on known issues.

Inspectors said the service could not show how they met the principles of ‘Right Support, Right Care, Right Culture’ CQC’s guidance on how all people with a learning disability or autistic people should expect to be treated when using services.

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust has been approached for comment.

It is the latest criticism of a city health service from The Care Quality Commission. Last month it announced urgent action after an unanounced inspection of maternity services at Jessop Wing saw its rating drop from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’.