VULNERABLE patients were left in soiled clothes, with dirty feet and in bedrooms with cracks and holes in the walls and ceilings it has been revealed, as the reasons why an independent hospital had its registration suddenly revoked have at last come to light.

Early this year the Care Quality Commission (CQC) took “urgent action” against The Breightmet Centre for Autism following inspections in June and July.

The health watchdog had been alerted to problems at the hospital by a whistleblower who raised concerns about patient safety.

An unannounced inspection by the CQC followed in June and the hospital was found to be “Inadequate” in all areas according to a damning report published this week.

Inspectors slammed the hospital on its safety and general state, noting that patients’ accommodation was “dirty and poorly maintained”.

One bathroom was covered with urine splash marks and communal areas and bedrooms had stains on the walls and floors

Dirty plates and half eaten leftovers, including hotdogs and pizza, had also be left in the open uncleared up by staff.

While clinical waste bins were overfilled, with syringes at the top, and there was dirty clothing piled up in three of the bedrooms and outside the laundry room.

The building also suffered from wear and tear throughout, including cracks in walls, damaged flooring and a large hole in the ceiling of a patient’s room.

Although inspectors noted that communal areas and most rooms were “sparsely furnished” and described the ward area as "bare and very bland", many items of furniture were damaged.

This included chipped tables, chairs and sofas with casing torn and foam exposed, damaged toilet seats and blocked drains affecting sinks and toilets ­— presenting a safety hazard and potential infection control risk.

In the 12 months prior to the inspection the CQC found that the hospital's records documented more than 2,190 "incidents", including 1,281 incidents resulting in physical harm.

­In one serious incident, a staff member had been stabbed after a knife went missing from the kitchen.

The report added that a few weeks later another knife went missing "showing lessons had not been learnt from the first incident".

CQC inspectors were also critical of staff ­— the majority of whom were not qualified nurses and were without the necessary skills to provide specialist care to people with complex needs, they said.

The centre saw a high use of agency and temporary staff every shift, and not all staff were trained in basic life support nor were all nurses trained in immediate life support

Staff “frequently” physically restrained patients and the incidence of restraint had “increased considerably in recent months", the report added.

Further managers and employees were criticised for not investigating incidents or sharing lessons learned, and staff were offered no specialist training to enable them to work with patients with complex learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

In respect of the caring nature of the hospital, the CQC reported observing staff failing to engage with patients they were caring for, on occasion ignoring them or chatting to colleagues.

The report added: "There were occasions when staff did not respect patients’ dignity.

"Staff allowed a patient to use a toilet with the door facing onto a communal corridor left open.

"When a patient took off their clothes in a communal area, staff did not protect their dignity by moving them away from the communal area. Also, staff left two patients wearing soiled clothing after they had been incontinent."

The centre's leadership team were described as lacking the skills and experience to perform their roles. However inspectors did note that since their previous visit in June 2018 the team had been substantially depleted, including the loss of the registered manager, the lead nurse, head of governance and speciality doctor.

This turnover meant staff reported not feeling respected and valued when they spoke to the inspectors about the negative impact of senior staff leaving.

Following their inspection, due to the concerns found, the CQC used its powers under section 31 of the Health and Social Care Act to take immediate enforcement action and placed conditions on the Breightmet Centre for Autism’s registration.

The hospital, which is based in Milnthorpe Road, is run by ASC Healthcare Limited and had been registered to assess and provide medical treatment for people aged under 65 detained under the 1983 Act, since 2013.

It also provides care for people with learning disabilities, mental health conditions, physical disabilities and was registered for the treatment of disease, disorder or injury.

At the time of the June inspection there were 16 patients living at the hospital ­— four women and 12 men.

Since July, management of the site has been temporarily taken over by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust who are working with ASC Healthcare staff.

An ASC spokesperson said: “We are passionate about delivering high quality care to our service users and their safety and wellbeing is our number one priority. We therefore take all feedback from the Care Quality Commission very seriously.

“We are disappointed by the CQC’s findings and are working to ensure improvements are made. We are sorry for any distress caused to both our service users and their families.

“Since the inspection, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust have been brought in to help us implement a comprehensive action plan to improve our standards, including a refurbishment of the centre, new governance processes and improved staff training.

“We are also collaborating closely with relevant local partners to sustain improvements and are confident the Breightmet Centre will have made sufficient progress by the next inspection.”

A second report detailing the findings of the CQC’s July inspection, which ultimately led to the hospital’s registration being revoked, is expected to follow in the coming months.