Mental health services face spot checks after string of abuse scandals, watchdog warns

Care Quality Commission's new mental health chief Chris Dzikit (CQC)

Care Quality Commission’s new mental health chief Chris Dzikit (CQC)

Unannounced and after-hours spot checks on mental health services are set to intensify following a series of abuse scandals, The independent can reveal.

The Care Quality Commission’s new mental health chief Chris Dzikiti said he was “saddened” by the “unacceptable” scandals of the past six months, warning the regulator it “will use the powers [it has] to hold people to account”.

It said the organization would carry out more unannounced inspections of suppliers, including inspections initiated outside normal hours, with the aim of having the “majority” of spot checks carried out this way.

His comments come later The independent exposed allegations of systemic abuse at children’s hospitals formerly run by The Huntercombe Group, now Active Care Group.

In his first interview since joining the regulator in November, Mr Dzikiti, who is a mental health nurse by experience, said: ‘I talk to managers of mental health services, I talk about [how] as a regulator, we will use the power we have, when [we] you see bad practices, we will definitely hold people to account.

“In our inspection programmes, we are also increasing unannounced after-hours inspections, because we need to seek insight into the culture of mental health services, especially those areas where we think there is a higher risk of bad practice.

“I won’t stop until we get people to safety.”

Commenting on the care scandals exposed by The Independent, BBC PanoramaAND Channel 4 dispatches in recent months he has said: ‘It is unacceptable, bad practice and I feel sorry for the families.

“Some of what we see are symptoms of some of [wider] challenges within mental health services”.

He said there were “systematic” challenges within mental health care such as poor environments, workforce shortages, people being placed in “unsuitable” units and the “lack of some services in community services “.

The head of the CQC told the public accounts committee on Monday that he had seen reports in which there were 19 patients sharing a shower and toilet.

Dzikiti warned that without addressing the “root causes” of mental health challenges, such as workforce shortages and the state of hospital buildings, scandals and poor care would continue.

“We may be able to address issues now for an organization [but] because people haven’t addressed the root cause, we’ll be back in 12 months, we’ll be back again in 18 months,” she said.


A series of inquiries by The independent AND Sky News in a private mental health provider The Huntercombe Group, now called the Active Care Group, has exposed allegations of ‘systemic abuse’ by more than 50 patients.

The provider has since been forced to close one of its hospitals in Berkshire, called Taplow Manor, after the NHS decided to stop sending patients to its CAMHS unit.

The CQC rated the provider’s two children’s hospitals, Taplow Manor and Ivestey Bank, as ‘inadequate’ this year.

When asked about the substandard care discovered at Huntercombe Group hospitals, the Chief Inspector said: ‘It’s frustrating, to be honest… I feel angry.

“It’s not good to see services like that. Personally, I have had the opportunity to speak to young people [from there]. I have also talked to parents with children who have been to those services and spent time listening to their experiences.

“We have to be brave,” the CQC chief continued. “We have to challenge each other. We have to take organizations into account when there are bad practices.”

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