AN independent investigation has been launched into failings at a mental health hospital.

Inpatient wards at West Lane Hospital, in Middlesbrough, were shut in September after two teenage patients – Christie Harnett and Nadia Sharif – died over the summer. 

Now NHS England is commissioning an independent inquiry into failings at the troubled hospital which is run by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust (TEWV). 

Papers from the latest TEWV board meeting on Tuesday showed how NHS England had “commenced commissioning” an independent investigation – talking to patients, families and staff about the hospital’s troubles. 

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said he’d been in contact with the families of Christie and Nadia.

He also revealed he’d met other relatives of patients who had “very real cause for complaint” about their treatment and experiences at West Lane.

Mr McDonald added: “I have also met with staff members and all of those discussions reaffirm the full extent of the complete failure of management, process and leadership.

“I’ve also had intensive conversations with the CQC and NHS England about the next steps in the various inquiries that will take place and specifically about settling the terms of reference of the NHS England Independent Inquiry. 

“I have been able to highlight the very serious defects that were at play at the hospital for some considerable time before these tragic deaths happened – and I am confident that both the CQC and NHS England are now very much aware of the key failings that warrant their further attention.”

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) visited crisis-hit West Lane Hospital after a troubled summer.

The Acklam Road facility had already been barred from admitting new patients after a visit to the child and adolescent mental health (CAMHS) wards in June saw the service rated “inadequate”.

The watchdog returned twice in August and found things hadn’t improved.

The latest CQC report found patients were found to be at risk of “avoidable harm” – because staff were often instructed to use discretion on whether to intervene during episodes of self-harm.

A patient also told inspectors about unsafe items which hadn’t been identified or managed by staff.

And the latest CQC report also revealed how patients had been negative about agency staff – with two young people telling inspectors they felt unsafe.

A total of 20 staff members were suspended by the trust in the 12 months leading up to the ward closures. 

TEWV leaders have apologised for the care at West Lane in the last two months. 

Elizabeth Moody, director of nursing and governance at TEWV, offered apologies to all involved at a health scrutiny panel in September. 

“We offer our apologies to the relatives of the young people in there, especially those of the two young people who have died,” she said.

“We are very sorry for what has happened and we are absolutely devastated not only as an organisation but on a personal level as well.”

She told councillors how urgent actions had been put in place to turn performance around – adding a third of the hospital’s staff were off sick when the tragic deaths of the two patients had occurred.

Colin Martin, chief executive at TEWV, said: “We are deeply sorry that we didn’t provide safe, high quality care to the young people at West Lane Hospital.

“A number of internal and external reviews and investigations will now take place.

“This includes an independent investigation, commissioned by NHS England, which is at a very early stage and will involve stakeholders, patients, families and staff.

“We will continue to update Mr McDonald on the situation.”