A ‘DIRTY’ and ‘unsafe’ mental health ward in Redditch where staff have been assaulted, has been issued a warning notice by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The health watchdog carried out an emergency inspection of Hill Crest ward, which is based on the Alexandra Hospital site, last July after a patient attempted to throw boiling water and sugar at a member of staff.

Following the inspection, the CQC rated the ward, which is run by Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health Care Trust as inadequate and was issued with a warning notice.

The trust says they ‘addressed urgent issues’ immediately and has since reviewed leadership structures and made improvements to the environment.

Hill Crest is an 18-bed mixed-gender ward supporting adults who experience acute mental health difficulties, and those who may be detained under the Mental Health Act.

Since the serious incident last July, a source who wished to remain anonymous, told The Advertiser that a cleaner was punched in the face by a patient whilst walking down a corridor.

Redditch Advertiser: Hill Crest ward.Hill Crest ward. (Image: Google.)

A nurse then tried to intervene but got his leg stamped on and broken in two places.

Patients were also moved out of the ward after a fire broke out in a bathroom last year.

The source claimed there are meant to be around eight members of staff on each shift but sometimes there have only been five due to staff shortages.

At least seven members of staff have resigned due to ‘working conditions’ and other reasons said the source.

A spokesperson for the trust said they cannot comment on people’s reasons for leaving or any other HR issues.

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Due to staffing issues, the trust has temporarily closed the ward to new patients and reduced the number of beds to 10 to ‘allow time to focus on improving quality of care and make the best use of the staff available’.

During the CQC’s inspection, it was found that two boilers were still in use indicating that ‘lessons have not been learned' following the incident last July.

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Craig Howarth, CQC’s deputy director of operations in the Midlands, said: “When we inspected Hill Crest, it was disappointing to see significant deterioration in safety and quality of the wards, as well as the care being provided.

“Areas of the ward were visibly dirty, including the main food preparation area, showers and toilets.

“We saw exposed electrical wires hanging from light fittings from the removal of ligature points which could place people at harm.

“In addition, people’s bedrooms were sparsely furnished with no wardrobes or areas to store personal items.

“Clothes and belongings were in bags or stacked in piles on the floor which did not support people’s dignity, wellbeing or make them feel at home.”

Redditch Advertiser: Hill Crest ward is based at the Alexandra Hospital site.Hill Crest ward is based at the Alexandra Hospital site. (Image: Newsquest.)

Patients also told inspectors that male patients regularly entered a female-only lounge area without being challenged by staff.

Sarah Dugan, chief executive at Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, said the standard of care at the time of inspection ‘was not good enough’ and has apologised to patients and families.

She said: “We are confident that the temporary reduction in beds that we agreed last week will help alleviate the pressures on the Hill Crest team.

“It will also help us focus on continuing to implement our improvement plan and sustain the changes that we are making. 

“We will work with our other inpatient wards and community teams to ensure that patients can continue to access the right level of care while our bed numbers at Hill Crest are temporarily reduced.”

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust's overall rating remains 'good' and the trust’s other two acute mental health wards for adults – Holt Ward and Mortimer Ward – were not inspected.