Staff assaulted patients at scandal-hit hospital which treated Nottingham killer

 (Getty/Google Street View)
(Getty/Google Street View)

Staff have assaulted patients and falsified medical records following deaths, according to a shocking new report into a scandal-hit mental health hospital where Nottingham killer Valdo Calocane was a patient.

Multiple incidents of staff physically assaulting patients and workers feeling too scared to report problems at Highbury Hospital have been uncovered by the Care Quality Commission.

The watchdog revealed police have investigated the deaths of two patients in which staff involved were later found by the hospital to have falsified their medical records in a new report, published on Friday.

The news comes after The Independent revealed Nottinghamshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, which runs Highbury Hospital, had suspended more than 30 staff members following allegations of mistreating patients and falsifying records of medical observations.

The trust also faces a further CQC review, commissioned by health secretary Victoria Atkins, following the conviction of killer Valdo Calocane who was a patient of Highbury Hospital’s community service teams. This review is due to be published later this year.

The CQC’s report, which rated the services as Highbury “inadequate”, revealed staff on Cherry Ward at Highbury Hospital, which is for older patients, were suspended on 5 November following a serious incident.

Incidents involving the falsification of observations, which are when a patient needs to be monitored for their own safety, had resulted in “severe harm” according to the report.

Separately the watchdog revealed two patient deaths at Highbury Hospital in March 2022 and September 2022. Following police involvement after the deaths the trust found evidence staff had falsified the medical records.

The trust, Nottinghamshire Police and the CQC declined to comment when asked about police investigations into staff at the hospital.

Daniel Tucker died just hours after being discharged from Highbury Hospital (Deborah Tucker)
Daniel Tucker died just hours after being discharged from Highbury Hospital (Deborah Tucker)

According to the CQC report, Highbury Hospital has had past incidents of falsification of observation records and warned patients safety is a “high risk” within the hospital.

Staff at Highbury Hospital were not managing patients appropriately, in one incident highlighted by inspectors a patient was able to bring cocaine on to a ward, despite staff knowing the local area was a “known risk” for those who used illegal substances.

This month The Independent also revealed the case of Daniel Tucker, a young man who took his own life just hours after being discharged from Highbury Hospital. Evidence at an inquest into his death revealed a doctor involved in his care had filled out paperwork meant to be completed when he was discharged and backdated the forms after he died.

On wards for older people staff were found to be using “excessive and inappropriate” medication to control patients’ behaviour. One staff member said when a patient was challenging they would “top them up with Lorazepam,” a sleeping medication.

Valdo Calocane was a patient under Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s community services (PA)
Valdo Calocane was a patient under Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s community services (PA)

Greg Rielly, CQC deputy director of operations in the Midlands, said it found staff on the adult wards “weren’t always being kind and respectful to the people they were caring for.”

“When we visited Cherry ward for older people, there was a significant impact on staffing due to a serious incident which took place, last November. That incident resulted in a number of staff being suspended, which heavily impacted on the standard of care people were receiving due to staffing levels.”

“A trust investigation of close circuit television (CCTV) found that these staff had falsified care records to show that observations had been done when they hadn’t. Our inspectors also reviewed CCTV footage in the acute wards for adults of working age and Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit and found staff had assaulted people causing physical harm. There had been four occasions where two people had been physically assaulted on Elm ward. The staff involved had been suspended and the trust have investigated the incidents.”

Mr Rielly said it was “totally unacceptable behaviour” and must be addressed by the trust.

Ifti Majid, Chief Executive of Nottinghamshire Healthcare said: “The safety and wellbeing of our patients is always our priority. We welcome inspections as they are an important way for us to understand how we are doing, identify any areas for improvement and the opportunity to make things better.

“I absolutely accept that these inspections found care that was not of the standard or quality that it should have been and I apologise unreservedly that we have let down patients who have not received the level of care they deserve. I recognise that we have to do better, to make changes in the way we deliver care so we can help those who need us and reassure the public of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire that it is a good thing to seek care and support from us.

“We have responded quickly to start that improvement journey. Some examples of the changes we have made so far since the inspections took place in October, November and December 2023 include increased oversight of staff, an additional senior nurses on wards, a new patient safety team and a review of all observations.”

A spokesperson for CQC said it is not carrying out a criminal investigation itself and that it is aware police were informed of patient deaths, as is routine.

Nottinghamshire Police said it has an active investigation into a death at Highbury Hospital in September 2022.

It also previously investigated a death at the hospital in March 2022 and shared its findings with the coroner.

This story was updated with a comment from the trust, CQC and Police and to correct a reference to inquest findings.