The Care Quality Commission has taken action following the identification of physical and emotional abuse of patients at a Cygnet mental health hospital in Essex. 

The CQC inspected Cygnet Yew Trees in Kirby-le-Soken, on 24 and 30 July, and on 4 August. There were eight people using the service at the time of inspection, although there is no one currently resident at the service.

The unannounced inspection was prompted by allegations of patient abuse, raised with CQC by Cygnet Health Care, which were substantiated when inspectors viewed closed-circuit television revealing some staff physically and emotionally abusing patients. Footage also showed some staff acting disrespectfully towards people in their care, intimidating them through aggressive behaviour and violating their human rights.   

In response, Cygnet suspended staff, made referrals to the police and offered psychological support to patients who experienced abuse.

CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, Dr Kevin Cleary, said: “Our latest inspection of Cygnet Yew Trees revealed that people who lived there were being subjected not only to poor care, but to abuse. Some staff who had witnessed this abuse did not escalate it. Although they may have feared the consequences of speaking out against colleagues who had abused patients, their failure to act perpetuated abuse and allowed a culture of poor care to become established.  

“Cygnet’s leadership has made efforts to address the harm people experienced while in its care, including suspending staff and making police referrals. This does not change or excuse the fact that a culture was allowed to develop at this hospital which led to people suffering abuse.

“Any enforcement action we may take will be published as soon as legal restrictions allow.”

Cygnet Yew Trees is a 10-bed hospital which cares for women over the age of 18 living with learning disabilities and mental health needs. It is rated Inadequate by CQC and subject to enforcement action. Last year a number of Cygnet hospitals were placed in special measures by the regulator and Whorlton Hall in Cheshire was closed after a BBC Panorama undercover investigation revealed evidence of patient abuse.

Date published: September 23, 2020

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