Body cams for Ilford mental hospital staff after ‘culture of secrecy’ over allegations of serious assault

A Redbridge mental health hospital is making staff wear body-worn cameras after allegations of serious assault against female patients.

In autumn last year, three serious assaults were alleged at Goodmayes Hospital’s in-patient unit for women and an “urgent review” found both staff and patients were at risk of “violence and aggression”.

The North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), which runs the hospital, initially failed to report the incidents to Redbridge Council due to a culture of secrecy.

Speaking this week, the chair of the council’s independent safeguarding adults board John Goldup said it was now clear there was a “major issue about safety and quality of care” at Sunflowers Court late last year.

He told councillors on Redbridge’s Health and Wellbeing Board: “The evidence of patients being abused – the way in which those events came to light – I do think is very concerning.

“The low level of safeguarding concerns being raised from such a unit, particularly in relation to patient on patient aggression, should have raised alarm bells.

“But the robustness of NELFT’s response is extremely encouraging and I think one can have a lot of confidence.

“I do think it’s crucial going forward that we don’t take our eyes off that ball, and continued close monitoring is essential.”

Following the incidents, NELFT carried out an “urgent review” which found both patients and staff were at risk of “violence and aggression”.

Measures taken include “large scale redeployment of staff”, hiring a full-time safeguarding professional and daily visits by advocates from mental health charity MIND.

The ward also has a new CCTV system and is piloting body worn cameras on staff, according to Dr Claire Williams, who was hired to lead the programme.

Dr Williams told NELFT’s monthly board meeting last week: “We know there were some concerning and worrying patient safety incidents in the autumn of 2020.

“We recorded that in some areas there were some unhealthy and unsafe cultures that were indicative of what the [Care Quality Commission] calls ‘closed cultures’.”

A NELFT spokesperson added: “We take patient safety incidents extremely seriously and, in relation to the incidents at Sunflowers Court, we have apologised to those involved and ensured patients and their loved ones have been fully supported.

“We have [now] engaged our NHS and local authority partners, including our local safeguarding leads, as well as staff and patients, to learn from these incidents and take forward actions.

“We have done this through an improvement plan across our inpatient services, focused on safety and quality of care.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter