CARE records went missing, medicines were not handled properly and patients were put at risk - those are just some of the findings in a scathing report after inspectors swooped unannounced on a Hampshire mental health hospital.

Drugs were “not always handled appropriately” while staff “did not always ensure that medicines were safely administered” at Antelope House, an accute psychiatric unit in Southampton.

Patients were also “at risk of not receiving appropriate treatment to meet their needs” as vital care plans and risk assessments failed to ensure their safety and welfare.

Now care providers Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust have been ordered to make immediate improvements – or face even more serious action such as fines, restrictions on new patients at the unit or even being shut down.

The Trust says it has increased resources at the unit and that an internal inspection will take place to ensure the necessary improvements have been made.

But the author of the damning report, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has taken enforcement action – one of the most serious options available to the powerful health watchdog – and will carry out yet another unannounced inspection within weeks.

The report was released after a surprise visit in December. It followed a separate inspection in August last year in which concerns were raised about care, welfare and medicine records.

In the most recent visit to the Brintons Road site, inspectors found that the trust was failing to meet the three national standards of quality and safety. It was on one of these, the ‘care and welfare of people who use services’ category, that the formal warning was issued.

Inspectors found that although the care plans were individualised to meet the mental health needs of patients, they did not always detail the support and care each patient required for physical health.

Audits were also not carried out effectively – in one case a member of staff said it was “a mystery” when asked where a patient’s care records were.

Another patient appeared to have no care plan to explain how their oxygen levels were being monitored while medicines were found out of their packets – making it impossible to see if they had been dispensed, what for, and when they would become out of date.

Adrian Hughes, regional director for CQC in the south, said: “When reviews are undertaken it is important that that lessons are learned from issues to influence future practice.

"People are entitled to receive care and treatment in services which are safe, effective, caring, responsive to their needs, and well led.”

The inspection did reveal that some steps had been taken by the trust to improve care planning and medicine records, while staff were described as being respectful.

If further breaches are found on the next inspection, the CQC can impose fines, put a block on new patients being admitted or even close the unit. However closure is considered a last resort by the health watchdog and a spokesman said that this course of action was “highly unlikely”.

Dr Lesley Stevens, clinical director of mental health from Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do, and we take very seriously any concerns raised about the quality of care we provide.

“Since the CQC inspected Antelope House in August we have been working through a detailed action plan which is monitored daily.

"Many improvements have already been made, although we acknowledge that further work is required – especially around how we deliver physical health care, which is reflected in the recent notices issued by the CQC.

“In response to this we have increased resources at the hospital to make the final improvements and will be carrying out our own internal inspection to ensure standards are met before the CQC deadline at the end of January.”

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