West Lane Hospital patients 'at high risk of avoidable harm'

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West Lane is a mental health unit for children and adolescents

A mental health unit for young people where two girls died in two months is not safe, a health watchdog has said.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough inadequate and said patients were at high risk of “avoidable harm”.

It found staff did not store medicines safely, out-of-date medicines were still in use, and staff used non-approved restraint techniques.

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust said it was taking “urgent action”.

Admissions to the hospital were temporarily suspended following the death of 17-year-old Christie Harnett in June, and on 9 August Nadia Sharif, also 17, died.

In March it was revealed 13 members of staff were facing disciplinary proceedings over the alleged ill treatment of patients.

The two girls’ families have called for action to be taken to prevent further deaths.

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Michael Harnett

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Christie Harnett was found dead after telling staff at the hospital she wished to take a bath

Christie had been in care facilities for two years and had a number of mental health issues, including hearing voices, which led her to self-harm and make multiple attempts to take her own life.

Nadia had autism and mental health issues and had been in care facilities for four years.

Her father Hakeel Sharif said previously that improvements needed to be made “very quickly” and it was “not safe for the kids being there”.

The inspection in June uncovered a catalogue of failings, including “substantial and frequent staff shortages” and employees not always “adequately assessing, monitoring or managing risks to patients”.

The report said staff did not feel supported or valued, with morale low, and some told inspectors not all incidents were reported.

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Nadia Sharif was a “really bright girl”, her family said

The trust said there was a national shortage of the specialist staff to properly support the “complex needs of young people in mental health inpatient wards”.

In July it had consolidated the number of wards from three to two, in a bid to address the staffing problem, allow more time for training, and improve safety, it said.

There was also “ongoing work to reduce the use of restrictive interventions”.

Elizabeth Moody, the trust’s deputy chief executive, added: “Our patients are always our priority… we are committed to making the improvements necessary.

“We will continue to work closely with the CQC, staff, and most importantly the young people in our care and their families, to ensure we provide better care at West Lane Hospital.”