An NHS Trust in Prestwich does not have enough staff to keep patients safe according to an independent assessment by the health and social care watchdog.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) conducted a targeted inspection of the Greater Manchester NHS Mental Health Foundation Trust’s adult mental health services in April.
The inspection was carried out at the trust, based at Prestwich Hospital, after the CQC received information on the safety and quality of the services provided.
In April, the Inspectorate assessed the safety of community-based mental health services for working-age adults and concluded that service provision in this area was “inadequate”.
The inspection concluded that safety standards at the service had deteriorated after a previous inspection of community-based adult mental health services in 2019, which rated safety in this area as “requires improvement.”
Security is one of five areas in which services can be rated, and the trust currently has an overall rating of “good” in every area except security.
The CQC’s report, published in June, says “the agency did not have enough care coordinators and support staff to keep patients safe.”
It added: “The staffing levels did not meet the high demand for the service.
“As a result, there was a significant wait for the initial assessment and assignment to a care coordinator.”
The inspectors also found that the service had high vacancy rates and high absenteeism among staff, many of whom say they were absent due to work-related illnesses.
The report concluded that referrals, including urgent referrals, were not always seen quickly and that the service often fell short of the Manchester Heath and Care Commissioning’s 21-day routine referral target.
However, inspectors noted that the percentage of discharged hospital staff followed up within 72 hours was 82 percent, surpassing the confidence target of 80 percent.
The CQC has told the trust to ensure all patients have an up-to-date risk assessment and to ensure systems and processes are in place to ensure safety alerts are followed up promptly.
It also recommended that the hospital consider a staffing assessment to ensure demand is meeting capacity.
Deborah Partington, chief operating officer at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “We acknowledge the findings of the CQC inspection of two of our Central Manchester-based community mental health teams and will address the concerns in their report.
“Before the inspection, we were aware of the challenges facing Central Manchester’s mental health teams and there are already plans to improve waiting times for service users.
“In line with the national picture, recruiting registered professionals for mental health teams is becoming increasingly difficult and this inevitably puts pressure on the capacity of the services.
“That’s why we’re looking for ways to make positions attractive for newly qualified and experienced personnel to join our teams, including support roles.
“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of our communities, leading to increased demand for our services and we are also seeing higher levels of mental illness requiring more intensive care and support.
“However, we have a process where we assess, prioritize and monitor individuals awaiting assessment and treatment, with personalized appointments for those who need the most urgent support.
“We are also making better use of technology and using a management and supervision tool that helps mental health professionals assess key data to identify the risks of a service user entering a crisis, which is vital when working with large caseloads.
“Our employees have had two very challenging years, which is why we are delivering workforce health and wellbeing projects to support those at work to stay healthy and to help those who are sick to return as safely as possible when they are recovered. .
“Together with our partners, we will continue to work as hard as possible to improve our services for those who need us, and we want to reassure people that the users of our services entrusted to our care are safe.
“We monitor the safety and risk of service users very carefully and give priority to those who need urgent help or a security risk.
“There are processes in place for service users to contact our teams when needed, as well as a 24/7 helpline for anyone in an immediate mental health crisis.”