CARE inspectors have issued warnings to the owners of a North-East mental health hospital.

Regulators from the Care Quality Commission told The Priory Hospital in Middleton St George, near Darlington, that they must make "urgent improvements to standards of care or face further action."

The warning followed an unannounced visit by CQC inspectors on January 14 "in response to concerns."

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They found the hospital - which provides inpatient treatment for up to 90 patients, including some detained under the Mental health Act - must make improvements to staff recruitment procedures.

A review of personnel files revealed there were gaps in employment history which were unverified, and occasions where suitable references were not obtained before staff started work.

CQC inspectors received an action plan from the hospital detailing how standards will improve.

The CQC said it will carry out another inspection to check progress.

A spokeswoman for The Priory said: "We acquired the hospital in 2010 and have been updating all policies and procedures. We accept the comments from the CQC and expect to be fully compliant with this matter very shortly."

CQC inspectors also issued a warning to Pathways Care Group Limited following an unannounced visit to the Ashleigh House care home in North Road, Darlington in January 2013 to follow up requirements made during a previous inspection.

Ashleigh House provides accommodation and care for people with young on-set dementia and people with mental health problems.

Inspectors, who were concerned that up to date records of peoples care and support needs were not being regularly maintained, told the home owners that they must make "urgent improvements" to standards of care or risk further action.

A spokesman for Pathways Care Group said: “We have appointed a new registered manager and the local authority re-inspected the home and is satisfied with our improvements. We are confident that our actions will confirm the home is operating within CQC guidelines.”