Regulator to increase spot checks of mental health providers

The decision to increase the number of spot checks follows a number of scandals in the private mental health care sector

27th April 2023 about a 3 minute read
“I will not rest until we get people safe.” Chris Dzikiti, head of mental health, Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates the health and care sectors, is to carry out more unannounced inspections of mental health service providers following a number of abuse scandals in the sector.

Chris Dzikiti, the regulator’s new head of mental health, said he was “saddened” by the scandals unearthed in the last six months. He said the CQC would use its powers “to hold people to account.”

The organisation would carry out more unannounced inspections of providers, he said. These would include inspections launched out of normal hours. The aim was to have the majority of spot-checks carried out this way.

Dzikiti, a former mental health nurse who joined the CQC in November, told the Independent: “I talk to chief execs of mental health services, I talk about [how] as a regulator, we will use the power we have, when [we] see poor practice, we will definitely hold people to account.”

“In our inspection programmes, we are also increasing the unannounced inspections out of hours inspections, because we need to try and get really deep into the culture of mental health services, especially those areas where we think there’s a higher risk of poor practice.

“I will not rest until we get people safe.”

‘Systematic’ challenges in the sector

In recent months, the Independent, along with the BBC’s Panorama and Channel 4’s Dispatches, has exposed a number of scandals relating to poor care practice amongst mental health providers. Dzikiti described these findings as “unacceptable, poor practice” and said, “I feel for the families. Some of what we see are symptoms of some of [wider] challenges within mental health services.”

Dzikiti added that there were “systematic” challenges within mental health care such as poor environments, workforce, patients being admitted to “unsuitable” units and the “lack of some provision in community services.” He warned that without addressing the root causes of these challenges, the scandals would continue. “We might be able to address the issues now for an organisation [but] because people haven’t addressed the root cause, we’re back in 12 months’ time, we are back again in 18 months,” he said.

The investigations by the Independent and Sky News into the Huntercombe Group, a private mental health provider since renamed the Active Care Group, uncovered allegations of “systemic abuse” from more than 50 patients.

The provider has since been forced to close one of its hospitals in Berkshire, called Taplow Manor, after the NHS decided to stop sending patients to its unit for treating children and young people.

The CQC rated Taplow Manor and another of the provider’s children hospitals, Ivestey Bank, as “inadequate” this year. The chief inspector described the poor care in the hospitals as “frustrating”, adding “I feel angry.” He said: “It’s not okay to see services like that. Personally, I’ve had an opportunity to speak to young people. I’ve spoken to parents as well with children who have been to those services and spent time listening to their experiences.”

Dzikiti said that it was necessary to be “brave,” adding: “We have to challenge each other. We have to hold organisations to account when there is poor practice.”

FCC Insight

We welcome the CQC’s decision to carry out more spot checks on mental health care providers. It is a reflection, however, of the regulator’s limitations that it took journalistic investigations to expose the shocking failings in a number of care homes – failings that should have been identified by the CQC itself. We hope that the investigations provide a wake-up call to the CQC to carry out rigorous checks to make sure that all providers are offering safe and effective care to the vulnerable people entrusted to them.