Southend hospital failing mental health patients - CQC

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Southend University Hospital is failing to meet some essential standards of care for people with mental health needs, a watchdog has said.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said there were unacceptable delays in carrying out psychiatric assessments of patients in accident and emergency.

The transfer of patients needing mental health care also took too long.

The hospital said changes were already under way and that most of its action plan had now been completed.

Junior doctors

Patient transfers took too long due to a lack of staff training and the limited availability of specialist mental health nurses, the CQC found.

It said support from psychiatric nurses employed by the local mental health trust was only available in the afternoon and evenings.

Outside these times support was only available from inexperienced junior doctors who had to travel to the hospital.

The CQC also found patient transfers to specialist units could take so long that that patients would walk out - especially at night when there was no transfer service.

The trust was commended by the CQC for investing in in measures to reduce risk for people with mental health needs.

These included the establishment of "safe rooms", but the CQC said further work was needed.

'No huge concerns'

Inspectors have given the trust 28 days to make improvements to the standard legally required.

Frances Carey, CQC regional director, said: "At the heart of our findings is the fact that the trust does not have a high level policy that covers all of its services to people with mental health needs."

The director of nursing at Southend University Hospital, Sarah Ballard-Smith, said changes were already under way and most of its action plan was complete.

"They came to visit us in October and only produced the report yesterday and that indicates that they don't have huge concerns about us as an organisation," she added.

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