CONCERNS about safety at five psychiatric intensive care units have been raised by a watchdog after it emerged patients were being put at risk of harm.

Psychiatric intensive care unit services at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys (TEWV) NHS Foundation Trust have been downgraded by the Care Quality Commission and are now rated as “inadequate”.

Five acute awards were inspected, including three at Roseberry Park, Middlesbrough, one at West Park Hospital, Darlington and one at Cross Lane Hospital, in Scarborough.

The report comes a year after the CQC said the overall service provided by the trust had deteriorated and required improvement. At that time, the psychiatric intensive care units were rated as good.

TEWV says it has taken “immediate action” and is spending £3.6m on recruiting 80 more care staff across its inpatient wards.

Brian Cranna, the CQC’s head of hospital inspection for the north (mental health and community health services), said: “During our inspection of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust’s acute wards and psychiatric intensive care unit service, we found concerns that urgently needed addressing.

“We found these five wards were providing a service where risks were not assessed effectively or managed well enough to keep people safe from harm."

“In particular, staff did not fully understand the complex risk assessment process and what was expected of them. The lack of robust documentation put people at direct risk of harm, as staff did not have access to the information they needed to provide safe care.

“It was also concerning that governance systems had not ensured staff understood when and how to observe and engage with people who used the service, and that leaders had not taken action to ensure staff were supported to keep people safe.

“The trust know what improvements must be made and we continue to monitor the service closely and will return to check on their progress.”

The CQC says it inspected the service in January after being prompted by an incident that had a “serious impact” on a person using the service.

It added: “This incident raised concerns about the safety and quality of the service. There was a potential risk of harm to patients if CQC did not inspect.”

Inspectors visited five wards to look at whether services were safe and well-led, concluding that they were “inadequate”.

Particular concerns were raised about staff not understanding the complex risk assessment process, a lack of robust documentation and governance systems which did not ensure staff were supported to keep people safe.

The trust has been issued with a warning notice, which means it must urgently address issues to keep people safe to avoid more significant enforcement action.

Trust chief executive Brent Kilmurray said: “We fully accept the issues raised in the report and have taken immediate action. As a result, we already have a better environment for patients on our wards.

“We have also provided assurance to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that effective systems are in place in our wards and that further improvements will be made across our services, with work already underway.

“The report has rightly highlighted issues we had already identified as needing improvement and we were already working to address them.

“A huge amount of work has taken place since the CQC visited our inpatient wards in January and we’re continuing to make improvements for the benefit of our patients and staff.

“To support that, we will be spending £3.6 million on recruiting 80 more care staff across our inpatient wards. We are also making significant investment in technology that will free our people to spend more time on patient care.”

Stockton MP Alex Cunningham called for the Department of Health to intervene.

He said: "“This yet another damning report from the CQC on the further failings of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust to keep both residents and staff safe, and ensure proper risk management was in place.

“Patients, family members and staff all deserve to know that the facilities provided by the Trust are fit for purpose and working in the best interests of those using the service.

"This is obviously not the case at the moment and it is clear that the Department of Health needs intervene to put things right and restore confidence in the services.

"The whole thing is very concerning, and I hope these failings are properly addressed in light of this report.”