Patients at troubled mental health trust faced sex abuse on wards, watchdog finds

The Edenfield Centre at Prestwich Hospital run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust - Anthony Moss
The Edenfield Centre at Prestwich Hospital run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust - Anthony Moss

Patient-on-patient sexual abuse at a troubled mental health trust has been revealed by the care watchdog.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out a series of inspections at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust after concerns about patient safety were raised by whistleblowers.

Undercover footage broadcast on the BBC Panorama programme earlier this year showed staff bullying, humiliating and mocking patients.

The trust has also been under scrutiny after three young people died within nine months at Prestwich Hospital, run by the trust.

The CQC inspections, which took place between June and July, found problems with the assessment of suicide risk, the way medicines were managed, cleanliness, consent to treatment and the safety of patients.

There were too few staff, a lack of proper oversight and scrutiny by the trust’s board, inadequate fire safety and poor maintenance, with dated wards.

The CQC took enforcement action against the trust after the inspections, saying the quality of care in some areas requires “significant improvement”.

The warning notices set out a legally set timescale for the trust to improve.

NHS England has also put the trust into its Recovery Support Programme - the highest level of intervention from the health service.

The report also highlights “significant concerns” of inspectors around sexual safety of patients on mixed sex wards.

Dormitory accommodation at the trust “did not protect the dignity, privacy and safety of patients”, the report found.

In the last six months, there had been 26 incidents relating to patient sexual safety on mixed wards.

“This included sexual advances and threats to female patients, coercive sexual contact, disinhibited behaviour, indecent exposure and sexual harassment,” it said.

In one case, a sexual assault was reported to the police in January 2022.

“One female patient told us that a male patient had repeatedly exposed himself to her in the garden and that nursing staff had not acted on these concerns,” the inspectors wrote.

Despite some actions taken following some of the incidents, the watchdog said staffing issues “prevented enhanced staffing being put into place to protect vulnerable patients”.

In one example, an incident occurred while staff were dealing with another on the same ward, the CQC said.

After the inspections, the CQC said the overall rating for acute wards for adults and intensive care had deteriorated from good to inadequate.

The safe and well-led areas for acute wards for adults and intensive care also dropped to inadequate, while ratings for effective, caring and responsive moved from good to requires improvement.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “We accept the findings of the CQC’s recent inspections at our trust and are committed to making the changes and improvements that our service users deserve.

“Work is already under way in order to build better and more sustainable services. Our Single Improvement Plan incorporates a range of immediate actions identified in recent weeks, alongside various longer-term ambitions.”