The Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead, which treats children with mental health needs, was told it must urgently address safety issues found by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following an inspection in March.
The CQC handed the hospital a formal warning due to concerns over failures in the way staff were carrying out observations of vulnerable patients.
The move comes as The Independent revealed police are investigating the hospital in relation to the death of a young girl earlier this year.
The provider has been limited to filling just 22 of its 51 beds due to the concerns.
The hospital was previously rated “inadequate” by the CQC in March last year, then upgraded to “requires improvement” in July.
However, the CQC has now suspended the hospital’s rating meaning it cannot rely on the most recent rating being accurate because of the concerns raised.
The Huntercombe Group, now owned by the Active Care Group, had another hospital based in Stafford rated “inadequate” earlier this year.
In a report published on Thursday, the care watchdog said it had received “mainly negative” feedback from young people at the hospital’s Thames ward, a psychiatric intensive care unit which treats acutely unwell children.
Commenting on the hospital overall, the report said: “Young people told us that staff did not follow the care plans in relation to their level of observations. They told us that if there was an incident the staff stopped doing intermittent observations. Staff in charge of shifts on wards asked new staff members to do observations before they understood how to do it. Staff had to ask the young person how to carry out their observations as they did not always understand what was expected of them in carrying out different levels of observations.”
It added that not all staff understood the needs of the young people and made “unhelpful” comments about their mental health crises.
“Some young people said they felt that the hospital should be shut down. However, they also felt that there were some skilled staff and that there were some enjoyable activities for them to take part in,” the report said.
According to the CQC, in February the hospital said it had nurse vacancy rates as high as 60 per cent and 42 per cent for support workers. However, inspectors said this had improved in March.
The report also found staff working with young people with eating disorders on two of the hospital’s wards did not have enough training, with only 20 per cent attending a four-hour eating disorder training session.
Karen Bennett-Wilson, head of hospital inspection for the CQC, said: “When we inspected Huntercombe Hospital Maidenhead, we found some improvements had been made and staff morale has improved as a result.
“However, we still have a number of serious concerns about the safety and quality of care being provided.”
“Fundamentally, the hospital did not have enough competent, skilled staff who knew the young people and how to care for them. Staff need proper training to ensure they can undertake observations robustly to ensure young people are kept safe… As a result, staff sometimes left young people unobserved and at times had to ask the young person how they should support them and what observations needed to be carried out. This is completely unacceptable.”
A spokesperson for Active Care Group said: “We are disappointed with the Care Quality Commission’s findings (CQC) following its visit in March 2022, but we look forward to a full inspection in due course.
“The safety and wellbeing of our young patients always has been our top priority and will remain so as we take learnings from this inspection forward and do everything we can to address the recommendations.”
The provider added it was pleased the CQC noted improvements since July 2021, including the increase or staff and remodelling of hospital buildings.