An independent hospital has been put in special measures after a damning report found vulnerable patients were 'not protected from poor care.'

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) branded the Breightmet Centre for People with Autism on Milthorpe Road as inadequate with regards to being safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led after they visited in March.

According to their findings, patients "were not protected from abuse and poor care" while staff had "no understanding of autism", with one patient saying staff had "laughed at them" and that they "wouldn’t listen anyway" if they raised concerns.

CQC director for people with learning disabilities and autistic people Debbie Ivanova said: “It was concerning that many staff were not suitably skilled or trained to work with people with a learning disability or autistic people.

“This led to people receiving limited support with making choices and having control over their own lives.

“People weren’t supported to input into their care plans and weren’t empowered to take part in activities which were part of their planned care and support.”

The inspectors spoke to five people with autism who used the service, six families or carers and one advocate, with two family members describing communication as "appalling" and five of the six saying staff became "defensive" when concerns were raised.

One family stated their relative was desperate to get out of the service.

The centre has already been put in special measures before after a similar CQC report in 2019 criticised it for failing in the “delivery of safe and effective care for all patients".

Earlier inspections in June and July 2019 had resulted in the temporary closure of the centre with care of patients taken over by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.

The Milnthorpe Road hospital was rated as 'good’ following another inspection in November 2020 after improvements were made, only for this latest rating to mean it must go back into special measures.

Ms Ivanova said: “Feedback from families and carers about the quality of the service was poor.

“They told us they’d all had issues with communication and that the service didn’t provide updates or respond to emails or phone calls.

“They also described staff as being defensive when issues were raised and said they were made to feel unwelcome on the wards.

“The service has been placed in special measures and is being supported to make the required improvements by the wider system, including the local clinical commissioning group.

“Inspectors will continue to monitor service closely to ensure people are safe.

“If we are not assured people are receiving safe care, we will not hesitate to take further action.”

The Bolton News:

Protesters outside Breightmet Centre for Autism in 2019

Sara McBride, whose son stayed at the centre in 2019, was "not in the least bit surprised".

She said: “I believe that the Breightmet Centre for Autism, and I also noted that they changed their name to escape bad publicity, should be permanently shut, and thoroughly, and historically investigated, and any person or organisation associated with them found wanting should be prosecuted with the full force of the law.

“I believe that if this place is allowed to stay open it will only be a matter of time before there is a death.”

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A spokesperson for NHS Greater Manchester said: “We are aware of the CQC inspection and subsequent action regarding a facility in Bolton, and the care and safety of patients placed there is a priority for everyone involved.

“This is an independent hospital with patients placed by commissioners from across the country.

“Health and social care colleagues in the borough where the centre is located are supporting these commissioners to ensure all patients receive safe ongoing care.

"They will continue to work with The Breightmet Centre for Autism and other partners on improving its quality of care and ensure families are supported by their local team as appropriate."

In response, ASC Healthcare, which runs the centre, says it intends to work with the commissioners to improve.

A spokesperson said: "We are disappointed by the CQC’s findings and are working to ensure improvements are made. 

"A full and detailed response to the inspection report can be found on our website following the publication of the inspection report.

"We are sorry for any distress caused to both our service users and their families. 

"We are working closely with our Host Commissioner, NHSE and Bolton Safeguarding and have implemented robust and comprehensive action plans to improve our standards which we have shared with our Host Commissioner, NHSE and Bolton Safeguarding.

"In addition, we have ongoing meetings with our Host Commissioner, NHSE and Bolton safeguarding who are supporting ASC towards the improvements we have made.

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