Hospital inspections and dashed hopes

13 Mar

Green tick list


Update small.

My weekly updates on waiting to hear from the hospital inspectors in response to my report. Months later, I’ve still heard nothing apart from automated email responses.



I’ve spoken before about my experiences in hospital: I was brutalised at my most vulnerable to the extent I came out with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I recently found out that the hospitals inspector had given the place where that was done to me full marks. And not for the first time.

It seems as if the inspection system is a rubber stamp, reassuring people outside that everything is just fine. We can all relax and look away.

I hadn’t been able to contact the inspectors before: I’m still traumatised by the hospital experience (and I’m still waiting for PTSD treatment). But, when I learned that the inspectors were going in again, I made myself make contact with them.

It was hard, but I did it. I’d known for a while that it was possible to report concerns (anonymously, if you wish) via the hospital inspector’s website. That seemed a good way to give the inspectors a heads up on some things to look out for: little signs and subtle clues that things might be amiss (if they still were). To encourage them to join the dots, to look and see where the hints might lead – rather than dismissing them as individual, isolated issues of little importance. To follow the trail to find out whether, to use their phraseology, the hospital might not be meeting all of its essential standards.

I tried several times to make that report, before eventually succeeding. First, there was the challenge of steeling myself to do it: to bring to mind the poor care I’d received (without setting off too many flashbacks) and think about how to phrase it in a way the inspectors might find constructive. Any number of times that barrier was too much for me. Then there was the difficulty in navigating the website. Often I would go there, try my hardest to get to the right spot, fail and leave. It took a lot of effort – emotional and practical – but, finally, I was able to make contact.

However, other than automated responses, I have received no reply from the hospital inspectors. No response to say that my query was awaiting attention, and perhaps a timescale within which I might hear back. To this day, I’ve had no reply.

And now, the opportunity to make a difference has passed. The inspection has taken place. The inspectors have published their report. They gave the hospital full marks, as if to say, “Relax everyone, it’s safe to look away again.”

But it is? Reading the report, I can see little clues – remarks at the end, comments by patients, concerns mentioned briefly – that have seemingly been brushed aside. It’s as if they’re saying, “Move along now. Nothing to see here.” Despite these niggles, the hospital was still given full marks. An unbroken list of green ticks. All essential standards were met, apparently. So the message seems to be: this is the standard of care we expect the hospital to give. This – what was done to you and what may still be being done to others now – is good enough. This hospital need not change. This hospital is good enough. All is well.Hospital inspection standards

It’s hard to know what to think about that or how to process it.

In a way, it’s a vindication of not having raised any issues before (which would have come at some personal cost to me): because, clearly, they would not have been a cause for concern. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the hospital and raise concerns direct: as my dad said to me, “You can’t break concrete with a feather.” I assumed that I’d be strong enough eventually, after treatment (other than drugs) – but I’m still waiting for that. I felt it was my duty to do what I could to try to make a difference.

Now, though, it seems it didn’t matter after all. Because, according to the inspectors, the hospital is doing fine. Or, perhaps, no on really wants to know what’s going on.

“The hospital is doing just fine, thanks for asking. And we’ll be back in another 3 years, to give it full marks again. Have a nice day now!”

When I searched under “hospital inspections” for an image to head this piece, up came a picture of one of the Winterbourne View residents being dragged by the arm. It seemed apt. If hospital inspections were effective, it wouldn’t need undercover reporters filming secretly (as they did at Winterbourne View) to expose abuses. That’s if we want to find them.



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Some weird conversations with the CQC’s Kay Sheldon

  • June 2014 – In which Kay Sheldon asks for my details TEN times in a row.
  • June 2014 – Some conversations arising.
  • November 2014 – Kay wades in again with victim-blaming.







12 Responses to “Hospital inspections and dashed hopes”

  1. BBB 14 March 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    [This comment was deleted as it is unrelated to the blog post]

    • Sam hill 12 April 2014 at 3:48 pm #

      Have you had hospital staff who always jangle their keys as if to say you can’t escape I have the dominion,also ever had smilers who beam when physically opposing a patient?The staff ignore you in hospital,drugs caused me 3 stone weight gain in 6 months and were so strong I collapsed,also causing parkinson like symptoms .what a nightmare it can be,they treat the doctors like gods and no one relates to you and you literally feel your equality slip away.

  2. Paul Winkler (@winklerluap) 14 March 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    Evidently in the mental care community, the bar is set very, very low in Britain. I can add that it’s not too bloody high in Canada either!

  3. J 15 March 2014 at 7:17 am #

    Have you tried raising your concerns with local Healtwatch? They have the power to Enter and View any health facility to talk to patients and/or carers and report to the CQC. Like you my mental health hospital gets the tick from CQC and my complaints are always brushed aside. Get the feeling that as a someone with mental health probs your opinion, perception of whatever happened is skewed by your ‘black and white or maladative’ thinking ie no one believes you.

  4. Judy 19 March 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    I read with horror a CQC report where a hospital for sectioned, adolescent patients was jusdged as failingon just about every level. Young people held in ‘seclusion’ for days, restraint for answering back etc, leave cancelled for breaking rules. Then horrified to see that it is still open, while they work to make improvements. Thsi is when the care sin’t even ;egal

    • dms91 26 September 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      Please see my comment below!

  5. Rod 12 April 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    CQC inspections of psychiatric hospitals are changing because of exactly the kinds of concern you have raised here. In future they’ll be carried out by people with specialist knowledge who know what to look for, so that they will be less of a rubber-stamping exercise. That’s the theory, anyway. Whether it works remains to be seen.

    I once reported a healthcare provider to the CQC using their free number 03000 616161. The person I spoke to was switched-on and helpful. It doesn’t mean they all are, but that was my experience.

    It’s probably worth reporting concerns to local Healthwatch (as suggested by J), but you’re unlikely to see them leap into action immediately. Even if they do “enter and view”, as ordinary members of the public they’re unlikely to know what they’re looking for. But if reports about a place pile up, they can exert pressure for change at a very high level within the system. You can also join Healthwatch yourself, of course, and help them identify the right priorities.

    If the hospital is run by an NHS foundation trust, it’s worth sharing concerns with your local governor. You don’t have to join the trust first, but you can if you want, and then you could stand for election as a governor yourself. The council of governors can’t act on individual complaints, but unless people tell governors what’s really going on they can’t act at all. Governors tend to get listened to because they can publicly shame or sack members of the board of directors if need be.

    • Sectioned 9 June 2014 at 10:13 pm #

      Your suggestions will be ridiculously unrealistic for many people who are trying to manage mental health problems without the benefit of sufficient treatment or practical support, as I am. In my blog above, I make clear how hard it was to even make an online report from the comfort of my own home. How on earth do you think it’s going to be possible for me to become a hospital governor, for goodness sakes?

      If the inspectorate really wants to hear from people who have been damaged by the system, it’s going to need to be a whole lot more accessible.

  6. dms91 26 September 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi @sectioned_

    Great blog!!
    Just to say,I am seeking support from CQC for a complete DH review of MH service. I have sent recorded delivery letters to all key players (so they cant pretend they didnt get them!) and I am hoping something will be announced on World MH Day Friday 10th October 2014 (or I get an explanation why system is failing so many! )

    BTW a Dr Paul Lelliot is the MH lead at CQC..he inspects psychiatric services and is Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals/ A professor Sir Mike Richards is Board Member and main Chief Inspector of Hospitals. (he oversees Dr Lelliots work.) Kay Sheldon is the SU REP on CQC Board and is a (part time) Non-Executive Director I believe CQC Inherited the old Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC) remit to “safeguard the intrerests of detained patients” and I want to know HOW?

    Hope this helps! Keep up the good work….many are out here rooting for you.

  7. JM 3 February 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    i can certainly sympathise…over a decade of abuse now and still no way of ascertaining if anyone of them actually know who they are, never mind prosecuted….

  8. Shirley R. Bullock 5 February 2018 at 11:17 am #

    The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

    Thanks, you a lot, Cz I have found your writing efficient about describing the real demand of present era. It includes almost every important features to broaden outlook of deserving people.


  1. Unexpected knowledge – Things I’ve learned since being sectioned | Sectioned - 12 April 2014

    […] learned that what goes on behind the closed doors of a mental health ward doesn’t matter, because no one sees and no one believes you or wants to listen either inside or when you get […]

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