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No chairs, beds or blankets in seclusion rooms at UK facility where Irish teens are treated

The facility faces closure if improvements are not made within six months.

 St Andrew's Healthcare Adolescent Service in Northampton has been deemed
St Andrew's Healthcare Adolescent Service in Northampton has been deemed "unsafe" in the latest inspection report.

FIANNA FÁIL TD James Browne has said issues identified at a mental health facility in the UK, where Irish teens are sent for treatment, highlight the need for more resources so young people can be treated here. 

A damning report released this week by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) deemed St Andrew’s Healthcare Adolescent Service in Northampton “unsafe” and threatened it with closure if it does not improve.

The report found staff did not “always treat patients with kindness, dignity compassion and respect”.

Some of the most serious findings related to the use of seclusion rooms. Eleven of the 15 seclusion rooms at the facility did not include furnishings such as a bed, pillow, mattress or blanket.

There were 13 episodes of seclusion where staff had not provided the patient with a mattress or chair. Observation records for nine episodes of seclusion detailed 28 entries describing the patient sitting or lying on the floor.

The report found that on one occasion during an inspection, staff did not respect a patient’s privacy and dignity when changing the their clothing and did not ensure that female staff assisted with this for female patients.

“It was the inspection team’s view that this practice was uncaring, undignified and disrespectful.”

Inspectors found sharp edges on door frames in seclusion rooms and extra care suites, blind spots in seclusion rooms and pieces of exposed sharp metal in extra care suites. 

Staff on one ward also locked the patient’s ensuite rooms which meant patients had to request staff to unlock them for access. 

‘Dignity and respect’

Browne said these finds are “extremely worrying with reports of children being held in isolation rooms without bedding or chairs”.

“We cannot expect to see any improvements in a child or teenager’s mental health if they are not being treated with dignity and respect in a safe and comfortable setting,” he said.

I have previously raised concerns about the practice of sending young people abroad for mental health services, which should be available in our own country, particularly with regard to teenagers suffering with severe eating disorders. There are currently only three beds in Ireland to cater for young people with eating disorders, despite the fact that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health issue.

Browne said the situation at St Andrew’s further underlines the need for the Irish mental health service to be given the staff and resources needed.

Irish teenagers who are sent for treatment in the UK are still in the care of Ireland’s child and family agency Tusla. The agency told The Irish Times that it is aware of the report and has sought assurances from the facility in relation to care arrangements for children sent from Ireland.

“Tusla’s ultimate goal is to see all children in such placements recover sufficiently to be safely discharged and return home to Ireland.”

St Andrew’s will be inspected again within six months and the CQC said if insufficient improvements have been made it will begin the process of preventing the provider from operating the service.

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