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Bootham Park Mental Health Hospital

Volume 605: debated on Wednesday 3 February 2016

[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the closure of Bootham Park mental health hospital.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. It has taken four months to secure today’s important debate about the circumstances surrounding the sudden closure of Bootham Park hospital. I am still waiting for the round table that I requested with the Minister, and for the vital independent investigation into what really happened at Bootham. Although City of York Council and NHS England are carrying out an operational review, but not a strategic review, we must remember that NHS England is not independent of what happened at Bootham.

Today, I will describe the story behind the headlines of how the system failed mental health patients in my constituency and put their lives at risk, why the issues cannot be ignored any longer, and how what happened at Bootham has national implications. Without urgent change, the problems could be replicated anywhere in the country. Two successive Care Quality Commission inspections in 2013 and 2014 highlighted risks at the 240-year-old hospital, including the line of sight around the quadrangle wards, ligature points and doors that presented suicide risks, and not enough staff. Those issues should have impressed upon all involved in the service that the setting was not safe and urgent action should have been taken, but even with the CQC report, inertia followed.

First, too many bodies were involved at Bootham Park. NHS Property Services Ltd owned the site. The commissioning was done by Vale of York clinical commissioning group. Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was the provider. York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust provided maintenance. English Heritage—now Historic England—had an interest in the listed buildings. Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust—TEWV—became the new provider from 1 October 2015. By the end, other bodies, including City of York Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee, NHS England, Monitor and the CQC, had a role in proceedings but, strangely enough, the safeguarding board did not.

The problem with the system was the unbelievable scope for too many organisations to blame one another for the lack of progress in addressing the CQC’s safety demands. I do not have the time today to run through each authority’s lack of action, but their cumulative inaction put lives at risk. There should be one authoritative body and one controlling mind, not different jurisdictions with different lines of accountability and different interests that do not relate to one another as they need to. They did before 2012. There must be a place where such matters can be settled. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 gives scope for confusion, which is admitted by those involved and evident from what happened. There are conflicting authorities, so there must be one clear and authoritative oversight of decision making in the NHS, so that everyone knows where responsibility lies. If clarity is needed, it should be quickly and easily established. This is about good governance.

Secondly, there was an issue with making things happen. Why did years pass without the CQC recommendations being implemented? How was that allowed to happen? The CQC stated the necessary improvements, but then the very bodies criticised are the ones who have to implement the repair plan. The lack of external oversight of the work meant failure and delay. External leadership must be provided, to ensure that the right solutions are expedited. Assignment to NHS Improvement would seem the obvious choice. The CQC’s enforcement policy is clearly not working, and who polices it? The CQC has powers, including when there are repeated breaches and when action has not been taken to remove risk, but they were not used. If an effective system was in place, there would be no slippage, confusion or blame, and patient safety would be at the forefront.

Thirdly, the service was to be recommissioned. There was clear dissatisfaction with the provider’s performance and an alternative provider was selected. However, a board member at the time has reported that the Leeds and York partnership trust did not invest in the required upgrades

“in case it did not win the contract”.

In other words, the contract interests of the provider outweighed patient safety, the problems were not addressed expediently, and the hospital was left in an unsafe condition.

I thank the hon. Lady, who is my neighbour, for giving way and congratulate her on securing the debate. I agree with what she has said so far. Does she agree that the Leeds and York partnership not only failed at that point, but had failed for many months down the line? That is why we have to get to the bottom of how it behaved throughout the whole system at Bootham Park.

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. We need to get to the bottom of why there has been continual failure not only at Bootham, but in the general delivery of clinical services.

The board member’s revelation was shocking and demonstrated that the current system allows for interests other than that of patient safety to be put first. Leeds and York did not invest in mental health in York, which was noted by staff and patients alike, and let the service be deemed unsafe by the CQC not once but twice, and then a third time, following a third inspection, which I will come on to later. It is also clear that the other bodies involved were not able to accelerate the inactivity. It is not that nothing was happening; discussions were ongoing, and the CQC and the Department of Health knew that a plan was slowly being drawn up by the CCG-led Bootham Park hospital programme board to address the CQC report’s findings, but “slippage” was evident. However, it is clear that frustrations existed between the bodies and blame for inaction was passed from one to the other. People hid behind jurisdictions and clear leadership was lacking once again, which is why there must be external oversight.

How can we have a health system in which there is scope for other interests, lack of focus, delay, lack of enforcement and blame, and in which CQC findings are not managed as a priority? We are back to poor governance and poor frameworks, which is what this debate is really all about. Leeds and York lost the contract to provide mental health services for the Vale of York CCG to TEWV. The trust appealed the decision to Monitor last June. Leeds and York then ran a highly public and politicised campaign that showed it was not interested in improving patient safety at Bootham, only in contractual matters, as I witnessed when I met with its chair. Monitor rejected the appeal and TEWV became the new provider. However, TEWV understandably wanted to inspect the plans for the building from which it would be delivering its services. I stress that the Bootham Park hospital upgrade could only ever be a temporary step, as I outlined in my maiden speech on 2 June 2015. The only safe solution will be a new build.

The CQC made an unannounced inspection on 9 and 10 September 2015. I have been unable to ascertain if this was at their instigation or that of Leeds and York partnership, but it is clear that the 20 weeks’ notice for Bootham to be removed as a suitable location was shortened due to the Monitor appeal process requested by Leeds and York, which the CQC told me impacted on its processes. However, as soon as it was clear that Monitor had turned down the Leeds and York appeal, the CQC knew that the trust would deregister, and that TEWV would have to be registered. The CQC also knew of the safety risks at Bootham, and that repairs had not been made. The CQC therefore knew that it would not be able to register Bootham as a location for TEWV to deliver services. That prompts two questions. First, why did the CQC leave the inspection until September, which then led to a rapid closure? Secondly, why did it then wait over two weeks to announce the inspection’s outcome? A longer run-in would have given more time for transition. We must keep remembering that mental health patients were put at serious risk.

The third inspection found a worsening situation. In addition to the safety risks already identified, staffing levels were worse and unsafe, record-keeping was poor, the water was found to be at a scalding temperature, and the kitchen, lounge and activity rooms gave access to an urn, electrical wires, scissors and knitting needles. A long-standing leaky toilet was leaking urine and foul water to the ward below and there was a risk of Legionella. There were other poor maintenance issues—as the CQC’s inspectors were assessing Bootham, a piece of masonry fell from the ceiling.

The CQC reported more than two weeks later, on Friday 25 September, that Bootham Park hospital must close because of the ongoing safety risks. The need for closure by midnight on 30 September 2015 was because the CQC could not re-register the facility against the new provider as being safe, because it was not. However, if the current provider were to continue to deliver the service, other options would be available.

The Leeds and York trust chief executive said on that same day that if the Vale of York CCG at the eleventh hour did not transfer over the service at the end of the month and let Leeds and York continue to provide it, it could keep the hospital open as it would not have to re-register. He said it was important that that was achieved for months until repairs were addressed. Even as patients were being cast out of their beds and out of our city, contractual issues were being placed above patient safety. The hospital was given five days—including a weekend—to close.

The CQC fulfilled its registration remit, but that meant that the building’s registration was placed above the unsafe environment that sudden closure and relocation would place service users in. That highlights how process was the factor that closed the hospital. Patients were put at risk. There was no scope for review of the decision, no one to assess the balance of risks and transitioning arrangements and no one to agree more time despite the clinicians, patients, families and their MP all highlighting the risks.

Let me mention some of those risks: the closure of the place of safety, section 136 suite, so people in a crisis have to travel at least to Harrogate for an assessment and then on again for a bed for their own safety; the closure of acute beds, with in-patients moved as far away as Middlesbrough, creating a huge risk and insecurity; patients moved away from their support networks and families to strange environments; and the moving of 400 people engaged in out-patients’ services to new locations. I heard how one service user’s condition became so exacerbated on hearing about their move that they became seriously ill, and that is not the only story.

I have heard from a parent how their child totally withdrew—from food and from them—because he was very frightened, and they were fearful for him. I have since supported frightened service users and family members. Out-patients who were suddenly discharged were confused and one senior clinician said it would be a miracle if someone does not die.

The situation continues. We have the place of safety back and we hope that out-patients will also be back in the near future. The acute in-patients’ service will be placed in temporary accommodation from the summer, all being well. However, serious risks resulted from the decision and the deterioration of service users’ mental health occurred. Safety was put after process, with some of the most vulnerable service users placed in an unsafe situation. There was no one in the NHS under the 2012 Act who had the authority to weigh up the balance of risk and decide, when greater risk to the lives of service users could occur with the sudden move, that an alternative call could be made, such as properly planned transition. No intervention was made, not even by the Minister—in other words, no one has overarching responsibility for patient safety in the NHS. That was confirmed by all the bodies. This must change immediately.

The reason I am so vexed is that four months have passed and nothing has been done about the system. Lives remain at risk, were such events to happen elsewhere. My constituents ask me, and I ask myself: is it because we are in the north? Is it because it is mental health? Or is it because the Government are too proud to admit that their Act has created that risk, as before 2012 there was someone who made such decisions?

I know that the circumstances at Bootham Park are exceptional and I trust that this will not happen again, but it could. The lives of my constituents were put at risk, and harm to their health occurred. The system failed them. That is why I and my constituents are focused on the need for a fully independent strategic investigation. Through my work and the health overview and scrutiny committee’s processes and now their operational local review, issues have come to the surface, but an independent review must occur. Lessons must be learnt of the failures in the way that health bodies relate to one another, and the problems that there are with governance. My constituents deserve to have answers.

Serious risks to patients were created in the NHS, and that cannot be ignored. No one died, but do we always have to wait until it is too late for someone before problems are taken seriously and situations are investigated? Agreement to an independent investigation is overdue.

In closing, I want to thank the service users and their families and carers for their continual pressure to get answers as to what happened to their services. They have been extraordinary in these very difficult times and deserve a confirmation that their concerns about the system will be addressed. I again invite the Minister to meet them. I also want to praise the outstanding efforts of all the staff involved in trying to support this unnecessary crisis, and in particular Martin Barkley for providing the leadership as the chief executive of TEWV. After 40 years of working in mental health, Martin is standing down, but I trust that his legacy will be a new, state-of-the-art mental health facility on the Bootham site for York by 2019.

Minister, four months is too long to wait to meet, too long to wait to undertake an independent review of the situation, and too long for my constituents to get the answers they deserve. Lives were put at risk and harm occurred. I trust that we can move the situation forward today.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone, especially in the circumstances of the powerful case put forward by the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), with whom I have been in contact pretty much since this incident started. We spoke on the telephone around the day things happened and I have been in regular contact since. It is true that we have not met in a round table, but that is not a decision of mine. We agreed that when there was a point to meeting all together, we would, but things had to happen and we had to go some way down the line before that. My door has always been open and the hon. Lady has always been able to speak to me.

If she would like to deny that, I will be happy to sit down, but she knows full well that I have spoken to her regularly and I have been available. I will happily see her and her constituents at a time that is entirely appropriate: when there is something to discuss. I do not think that her charge is particularly fair.

I am confused because I have been trying to get a meeting with the Minister—I have got correspondence for three months. I am therefore sorry if his office has let him down, but we have been trying to get a meeting, which senior clinicians also want to hold.

Let me be clear. I spoke to the hon. Lady at an early stage and first I advised that a debate would not be a bad idea to bring issues out. I was concerned that there might be delays with the trust in terms of what may happen with the new premises, but at the time of the incident there was no point in having a meeting about what would happen next. Since then I have genuinely not been aware of a request for a meeting. I am very happy to have such a meeting, but at the time it seemed sensible that we would wait until there was a point in having a meeting. We have met and passed each other pretty regularly in the meantime and, had there been a delay that had caused grave concern, it would have taken a matter of a second to say, “How about that letter —are we going to meet?” but I have not had that conversation.

May I thank my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) for his interest? We have spoken on this subject from time to time.

Those issues, however, are incidental. The hon. Lady’s interest has been sincere and consistent, and she highlights a pretty unhappy story in which there are circumstances that cause me genuine concern. I will first say a little about what we know about the circumstances and then what we can do next.

Bootham Park hospital could provide care to about 25 to 30 in-patients and about 400 out-patients. The Vale of York CCG had previously announced its intention to commission a new, state-of-the-art facility and is working with NHS Property Services Ltd and NHS England to press for funding. I understand that the intention is to provide a new hospital in York to replace Bootham Park by 2019. At this stage, I have heard no suggestion that that will not be the case.

On that point, will the Minister highlight what discussions he has had with the new trust, TEWV, about the new hospital, and whether the timelines are still on track?

I have not had those discussions at this stage, because my understanding is that the timelines are on track. I suggested to the hon. Member for York Central that if there were concerns about foot-dragging, I was very willing to have that conversation with other colleagues in the room, to ensure that the original stated timetable was stuck to. I was interested in whether there was any opportunity to bring that forward, but my understanding is that that is not the case. I will come to what happens next in a moment.

Until recently, as the hon. Lady said, the hospital was operated by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. In October 2015, the Vale of York clinical commissioning group ended the relationship with that trust and asked Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust—TEWV—to take over the provision of services.

Bootham Park is a very old building, at 200 years old, and is probably one of the oldest buildings in use for patients in the NHS. It is also a grade I listed property, which has not necessarily made things any easier over time. The hon. Lady said in her maiden speech:

“Bootham is not fit for purpose and the CQC concurs.”—[Official Report, 2 June 2015; Vol. 596, c. 512.]

She was entirely right. As such an old building, Bootham Park had a number of problems that modern buildings designed for healthcare services normally avoid, one of which was ligature points—in other words, fixtures or fittings that someone could use to hang themselves from. As the hon. Lady knows, that was sadly not a theoretical problem at Bootham Park, since a lady was found hanging in her room at the hospital in March 2014.

The inquest heard that in December 2013, CQC inspectors had already identified the ligature point that that lady later used, along with a number of others, and asked that it be removed. The CQC’s report, published in 2014, clearly said that there were a significant number of ligature risks on the ward, but that work was unfortunately not done by the trust. The coroner noted at the inquest that he would have expected management to see that the work was done.

The Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust fully accepted that it should have done the necessary work. However, when the CQC returned to inspect the hospital in January 2015, it again identified risks to patients from the building infrastructure and a continuing need to improve the patient environment. Refurbishment had been taking place both before and after the January 2015 inspection. Work carried out since February 2014, at a total cost of £1.76 million, included a number of improvements. Among those was an attempt to remove all the ligature points, as well as an overhaul of the water hygiene system and other repairs.

The CQC inspected the hospital again in early September 2015. At that point, it once more recorded a number of familiar problems, although it acknowledged the effort the trust had made to deal with them. The CQC found insufficient staffing numbers; areas with potential ligature points that could have been remedied without major works; poor hygiene and infection control; poor risk assessments, care plans and record-keeping; an unsafe environment due to ineffective maintenance; areas deemed unsafe or found unlocked; and poor lines of sight on ward 6. Furthermore, part of the ceiling had collapsed in the main corridor of the hospital. The debris was cleared away but the area was not cordoned off, which meant people were still at risk of harm.

The building’s listed status meant that it was not possible to remove all potential ligature points. The quadrangle-shaped wards meant there could never be a constant line of sight for nurses to observe patients. Despite the money already spent, the systems for sanitation and heating were outdated. The CQC felt that despite repeated identification of problems at inspections, not enough had been done—the hon. Lady was quite right to point that out—or perhaps could be done to provide services safely at the hospital. Patients remained at risk. The CQC therefore took the decision, as the regulator, to close the hospital with effect from October 2015. The CQC and the Vale of York CCG both agreed, as the hon. Lady said, that the current estate was not fit for purpose.

The timing of the closure was unfortunate. Mental health and learning disability services in the Vale of York were due to transfer from the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to TEWV on 1 October 2015. That meant the new provider was taking over as the facility was being closed down for safety reasons. However, when the CQC, as the responsible regulator, comes to the conclusion that a building is so unsafe for patient services that they cannot continue and that it cannot be made safe, the local NHS has no choice in the matter.

The hon. Lady spoke about the number of different organisations involved. I understand her frustration, and I am interested in looking at how that has happened. Different bodies have different responsibilities. Bodies’ not having separate responsibilities for regulation, supply, commissioning and so on runs other risks. She is quite right, however, that having such separation and so many different parties involved means we run risks. If people are ducking and diving to evade responsibility—I will come to that in a second—that is a risk too. There is no easy way to do this, but I am quite clear that bodies have specific responsibilities that they should live up to; I do not think that that is necessarily wrong, provided they all know what they are doing. This situation was particularly difficult.

Nearly two years had passed since the CQC identified serious safety issues at the hospital, which seems more than adequate notice of the problems. The CQC said that it could not allow the service to continue indefinitely or allow a new application to open services at the hospital until the risks to patient safety had been addressed. Ensuring continuity of services for patients immediately became a priority. By midnight on 30 September, eight patients had been transferred to facilities in Middlesbrough, two went to another facility in York and 15 were discharged home. Arrangements were made for some 400 out-patients to continue to receive services at other locations in York. That was a considerable undertaking for the local NHS and achieved under great pressure. It was, of course, not what patients needed or wanted. The change and speculation about what would happen was inherently unsettling.

The NHS had to get matters back to an even keel as soon as possible, and that is what has been happening since. As the hon. Lady said, there has been a recovery of the section 136 services at the hospital. The NHS now has an interim solution in the adaptation of Peppermill Court. The in-patient service for older men with dementia, formerly provided at Peppermill Court, will now be provided at Selby. TEWV started work this week on the development of Peppermill Court as an adult in-patient unit and intends the refurbished 24-bed in-patient unit to be completed by the summer. Out-patient clinics continue to be held at a number of locations in York, and TEWV hopes to move all out-patient appointments back to Bootham Park hospital later this month.

That is where we are, with one further caveat: the business of trying to find out what has happened and why. My understanding is that an external review has been taking place, involving a number of different bodies that have had responsibility and are now looking at this. It seems almost impossible for the review to be concluded without its findings being made public, which would be a good opportunity for people to examine exactly what has been done. I want to see that review’s findings. I want to see the questions that the hon. Lady has raised today answered, and I want a good, clear line of sight as to what has happened, how it happened and, as far as lessons learned are concerned, how to ensure that this could not happen again in the rest of the system, as she says.

Based on what the review says, I will have further thoughts about the questions the hon. Lady has asked. Until we see the review’s findings, we will not know how complete it is or the answers to all the questions. Let us see the review’s findings first. If it is plain that the review is inadequate and leaves things unsatisfactorily handled and dealt with, with questions still arising, we will need to have a conversation at that stage. It might be appropriate, after the review has concluded, to have a round table and use it as an opportunity to have that conversation. However, until I have seen the review’s findings, I cannot decide whether there is anything further to be done at this stage. I want to ensure that the questions are answered, and that there are ramifications across the system. We also want to make progress with the new hospital. Let us see what comes out of the review, and then we will meet again.

On the hon. Lady’s request for a meeting, I have just been handed a note—we had an email from her office on 15 January. We are now going through the invitation process but have not responded.

If there has been correspondence that has not been answered, I apologise, but as the hon. Lady knows from my previous contact with her, she can come and see me, and we will sort that out as soon as we can.

Order. I thank Members for a very important debate, but I am afraid time has beaten us, and we must now move on.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).