AGITATED and aggressive patients may not be restrained properly by staff at Huntingdon’s Hinchingbrooke Hospital in spite of assurances that national standards are being complied with, the health service watchdog says.

The Care Quality Commission is threatening Hinchingbrooke with enforcement action if it fails to show that it is meeting the standard for safeguarding vulnerable adult patients.

The threat follows two incidents, in May and September last year, following which inconsistencies emerged between what Hinchingbrooke told the CQC and what it reported to the National Patient Safety Agency.

In one case, staff are alleged to have used a form of restraint the hospital had specifically undertaken not to use, the CQC's report said yesterday (Tuesday).

The commission's judgment said: “The trust are [sic] unable to demonstrate that staff are trained and competent to protect people who use services from abuse, the risk of abuse and ensure their human rights are respected and upheld.

“The trust did not demonstrate that national and local guidance about safeguarding people from abuse is put into practice by staff when caring for patients who are agitated and aggressive.

“The trust did not have suitable arrangements in place to ensure that forms of control or restraint used afforded protection to people using services.”

Hinchingbrooke said it had made significant progress on safeguarding since last autumn, but the commission had not visited to check on that issue.

It had, however, been highly complimentary about the A&E department.

In a statement, Dr Richard Dickinson, medical director, and Liz Pointing, director of nursing, midwifery and operations at Hinchingbrooke, said, “We take this report extremely seriously and we would like to reassure our patients that we continuously strive to provide the highest level of patient care.

“The CQC have [sic] not undertaken an on-site inspection. Their decision is as a result of their interpretation of the evidence that we have submitted to them. The trust has met with the CQC to try to further understand the basis of their concerns and we will continue to do so.

“We continuously strive to improve the care we offer throughout the trust, and this is demonstrated by a recent unannounced CQC on-site inspection of our A&E department, which was highly complimentary. The CQC found that our A&E department was meeting all essential standards of quality and safety.”

The hospital said it had engaged a full-time 'adult safeguarding lead'. “A primary focus of this role is to ensure that we have the correct systems, processes and training in place to safeguard our patients.”

But the CQC report said: “The training needs analysis does not state that specific training is available to assist staff to manage challenging behaviours.

“We have received two notifications from the National Patient Safety Agency reporting two incidents that occurred in the trust in May and September. They were about patients who had become agitated and aggressive and neither report contains reference to risk assessments or how attempts had been made to calm the individual down.

“The report for one of the incidents describes staff using a form of restraint that is specifically detailed in another trust document as not one that the trust staff would use.

“This raises concerns about trust's policy to safeguard patients and staff training in the management of behaviour that presents a risk.”