Call for tighter checks on private hospitals used by NHS after MRSA case

Labour MP Louise Haigh cites case of young patient who contracted infection while on mental health ward in Sheffield

Theresa May has been urged to tighten checks on private hospitals used by the NHS after a Labour MP raised the case of a young patient with an open wound who contracted MRSA on a private mental health ward.

Louise Haigh, a Labour frontbencher, called for the NHS to thoroughly investigate the quality of care before it commissions beds and treatment from private providers.

She cited the case in her of a “young women with MRSA with open wounds” on a child and adolescent mental health ward at Cygnet hospital Sheffield, which a report by a healthcare watchdog rated as inadequate in terms of safety.

“NHS England commissions child and adolescent mental health beds at a private hospital in my constituency, which recently received a damning Care Quality Commission report,” she said.

“Does the prime minister share my concern that a shortage of mental health beds risks the NHS placing vulnerable young people in unsafe environments, and will she consider giving NHS England the responsibility for, and the resources to investigate, the quality of care before it commissions?”

In response, May promised to ask Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, to investigate, while highlighting a “a number of steps to improve mental health” provision in the NHS, including an increase in funding.

But Haigh said she wanted to see more action to make sure private beds paid for by the NHS are safe.

“Clearly the NHS should not be commissioning beds for children and young people unless they are confident they are safe places for them to be treated,” she said.

“This horrifying example suggests that a shortage of beds in the NHS and by private providers is forcing the NHS to place vulnerable young people in situations that are dangerous.

“I want to see NHS England have the responsibility and the resources to ensure that all places are safe and provide decent quality care before they are commissioned.”

Cygnet Health Care, which runs the hospital in Sheffield, said it had proactively notified the Care Quality Commission about cases of MRSA.

A spokesperson for the hospital said: “Our absolute priority is the health and wellbeing of the young people we support. Prior to the CQC’s inspection, we had notified the regulator about two instances of infection relating to patients.

“During the inspection, we further advised inspectors that a member of staff had also tested positive, and had been temporarily removed from the hospital as part of our infection control measures.

“Following the inspection we thoroughly reviewed our infection control protocol, and carried out additional staff training to ensure all measures are followed appropriately.”

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