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Award winning work to improve care for those in secure mental health service


Healthwatch Northamptonshire recognised by its peers for its work.

Healthwatch England Chair, Anna Bradley with Rosie Newbigging, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Northamptonshire

At our annual conference this week, Healthwatch Northamptonshire won the Networks Choice award for their “moving, thought provoking and dedicated” work for people in secure mental health services.

Concerns raised about local services

Northamptonshire is home to one of the largest secure mental health institutions in the UK run by the independent charity, St Andrew’s Healthcare. With over 800 beds on the Northampton site(and over 1,00 across the UK), the service is an national and international specialist and its patients include adolescents.

Following concerns raised by the public about the quality of care at St Andrew’s, combined with evidence from CQC inspections of individual wards, Healthwatch Northamptonshire decided to look into the issue and champion the needs of patients. 

The need for this was reinforced by information about four unexpected deaths on the same ward within an 8 month period, of men in their 40s and 50s, between 2010 and 2011.

Patients asked about their experience

In 2014, the local Healthwatch used its statutory powers to undertake a visit to the hospital. Working with the user led charity Together for mental wellbeing, Healthwatch Northamptonshire heard from 44 patients across 13 wards about their experiences. Their final report highlighted a range of concerns including patient safety, patient involvement in care plans, staffing levels  and the quality of the environment.

Healthwatch Northamptonshire raised the need to improve the quality of care at the hospital with St.Andrews, as well as the lead commissioner NHS England and the Care Quality Commission.

They also told us about their concerns including a much delayed NHS England review into learning from the deaths of the four patients - an issue we took up with the Chief Executive of NHS England. The local Healthwatch also gave evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry into deaths in custody.

The local impact

Following an inspection by CQC, St Andrew’s are now delivering a plan that focuses on improving patient involvement, safety, staffing levels and improving learning from serious incidents. The local Healthwatch are also now part of the process which has been put in place to monitor progress in delivering the plan.

Sharing the learning

Healthwatch Northamptonshire also used their investigation as an opportunity to test a new approach for capturing the views and experiences of people in secure mental health settings - including medium secure, learning disability and adolescent wards; an approach which they plan to share with other organisations.