Patient in care of Nottinghamshire NHS trust ‘warned phone would be confiscated if they tried to complain’

Highbury Hospital, which is run by the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

A troubled Nottinghamshire NHS trust tried to stop a patient from complaining about their care to a watchdog, a councillor has claimed.

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has faced a catalogue of serious concerns over care and was rated ‘requires improvement’ by watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2022.

The organisation is responsible for mental health services in Nottinghamshire, including secure hospitals.

During a city council health scrutiny meeting on Thursday, May 16, chair Cllr Georgia Power raised further concerns about Highbury Hospital, which offers mental health services.

She said she had learnt a patient was asked to sign a document to say they would not contact Care Opinion, the UK’s independent non-profit feedback platform for health and social care, or the CQC, with negative feedback.

“We know that, certainly recently, patients who were on wards in Highbury [Hospital] were asked to sign something to say they would not contact Care Opinion – we have evidence of that in 2022 – with negative feedback or they would have their phone taken off them while detained,” she said.

Cllr Power asked trust officials if they, therefore, believed feedback was effective.

Cllr Georgia Power (Lab), the chair of the Nottingham health scrutiny committee
Cllr Georgia Power (Lab), the chair of the Nottingham health scrutiny committee

Jan Sensier, the executive director of partnerships and strategy at the Trust, said: “I think we don’t think it is effective at the moment.

“That is why we put in place a whole project around this because we are not listening after our patients. We are not looking to see what patterns are and the themes are sufficiently.

“We need to do so much more and we absolutely acknowledge it is not good enough.”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Power told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “A patient shared an experience where they had tried to share concerns with Care Opinion and the CQC about the treatment they were receiving at Highbury Hospital.

“They were then asked to sign a document that said they would not post on social media. They hadn’t been. What they had done was try to contact the people you are supposed to contact if you feel your care is not appropriate.

“The trust said to us today they have got a wealth of information from patient complaints and Care Opinion, but they don’t use it appropriately, and we think that is true that they haven’t been using it appropriately.

“We also know there has been a culture in some areas of the trust, not every area, of preventing patients of making those complaints.”

In January this year, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins ordered a special review of the trust following the Nottingham attacks.

Valdo Calocane fatally stabbed students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, and 65-year-old school caretaker Ian Coates, in June 2023.

Calocane had previously been treated for paranoid schizophrenia by the trust and had been under its care several times before the incident.

The CQC has now published two parts of the special review, including an assessment of patient safety at the trust and improvements made at Rampton high-security hospital.

A third section of the review, focusing on how the trust cared for Calocane, is due in the summer.

Other past problems at the trust include staff suspensions and the CQC finding evidence of staff falsifying records and assaulting patients.

In March this year, the issues prompted Nottinghamshire County Council to suspend entering into a new contract with the trust pending the outcome of the special review.

The CQC has also said Rampton Hospital should only be re-licensed for a period of 12 months, rather than the typical five-year period.

During the meeting Ms Sensier and her colleague Dr Sue Elcock, medical director and deputy chief director of the trust, said the financial deficit of the organisation has also further grown and needed to be addressed quickly.

They admitted the trust had not listened to external voices enough, but noted it would be engaging in a “big conversation” with its 10,000 staff members working across the organisation to get their thoughts.

They said there had, positively, been a nine per cent fall in its mental health care waiting lists.

The list had stood at 1,233 people when the review began.

An improved crisis telephone line also went live on April 29, they said, which allows for voice messages to be left by people in need of help.

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