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White Brick Wall

Huntercombe/ACG CAMHS Units

Huntercombe Hospital Edinburgh

"I arrived there when I was around 16 and was there for a year. When I arrived things were bad and I was very unwell, but by the time I had left, things had escalated to a completely different level [...]  it literally felt like a torture chamber [...] I could have easily died [... the] whole experience was EXTREMELY traumatic [...] all of the patients were majorly unsafe." - *Kate, FDNH member.

In 2003, Huntercombe Hospital Edinburgh opened as a 22-bed unit for both adults and children suffering from eating disorders. It closed in early 2019. The reasons for Huntercombe Edinburgh's closure have not been made public, but ex-service users we've spoken to tell us it was 'shut down' by Scotland's Mental Welfare Commission.


We've not been able to find out which company regulated this service for the first 13 years of its registration as there are no online public records of inspections carried out by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (the Scottish equivalent of England's Care Quality Commission) relating to Huntercombe Edinburgh until 2016.

The way that the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland carry out hospital inspections is different from the Care Quality Commission's inspection method; instead of giving 'ratings' for individual areas of care and treatment, the Mental Welfare Commission (MWC) offers 'recommendations'. Only 2 inspection reports for Huntercombe Edinburgh are accessible online. Both refer to 'staffing issues' and one refers to unspecified 'difficulties' encountered by the service. In both inspection reports, young people voice a lack of structured activity, however, no recommendations are made in regard to this.

A newspaper article published by The Scotsman in February 2017 reports that Huntercombe Hospital Edinburgh has been asked by the MWC to "provide [a] policy for restraints use", in response to MWC's discovery of specialist nasogastric feeding equipment. A spokesperson for the hospital claimed, "Huntercombe Hospital Edinburgh does not use mechanical restraint. It has no plans to introduce it. There are no such devices in the hospital and there have never been."

Meadow Lodge

In June 2017, Meadow Lodge was first registered with the CQC as a 10-bedded CAMHS inpatient service. It did not receive its first routine CQC inspection until April 2018. At this inspection, the CQC highlighted a number of serious concerns, including the following: staff not confident in making safeguarding referrals; unmanaged ligature risk points; care plans not recovery focused. There was no permanent manager in place at Meadow Lodge during this inspection.

Meadow Lodge's second CQC inspection was undertaken in response to concerns raised by employees of the service that young people were being put at risk by agency staff, and a notification to CQC that staff were not ensuring young people received emergency medical care and treatment. In response to this inspection, Meadow Lodge was issued a warning notice and told it must make immediate improvements. However, the following routine CQC inspection into Meadow Lodge, which took place in February 2019, rated the service as 'inadequate' and placed it into 'special measures'. Some of the concerns highlighted by CQC included: lack of permanent management team; staff not receiving regular supervision; reliance on agency staff; disconnect between shift and management staff; lack of appropriate safeguarding referrals/missed referrals.

Meadow Lodge was closed in April 2019. According to a spokesperson for Huntercombe group, "[the decision to close Meadow Lodge] followed an NHS England review to re-organise capacity of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the South region, which determined that Meadow Lodge will not be required". Valerie Michie, CEO of Huntercombe at the time, claimed, "there has not been sufficient demand to keep the service open". In October of the same year, NHS England announced that a new taskforce aiming to improve children's inpatient mental health services had been established. Some of the issues and areas this taskforce aimed to address were: 'inappropriate out of area placements'; 'improving local bed availability aligned'; 'inappropriate under-18 placements in adult beds' and 'ensuring a sufficient national bed stock'.

Huntercombe Hospital Norwich

Huntercombe Hospital Norwich opened between 2014 and early 2015. Its first CQC inspection took place in May 2015. We were not able to find a record of this inspection report online, however, Norwich's second CQC report notes that the service was "served three warning notices in relation to breaches of regulations 10, 13 and 15 of the Health and Social Care Act (2008) Regulated Activities" at the previous inspection. 

In March 2017, following its third routine inspection, Norwich was rated as 'requires improvement'. Also in this month, Mia Titheridge, a 17-year-old patient at the hospital tragically took her own life. Mia was on level 2 observations at the time of her death, meaning she was supposed to be checked on by staff every 15 minutes, however, Mia was not found until an hour after she had last been checked by staff. An inquest into Mia's death found that "there was a failure to respond to Miss Titheridge's low moods and suicidal thoughts, and a failure to carry out frequent observations overnight on 18 and 19 March." No action was taken against Huntercombe Hospital Norwich or its provider, the Huntercombe Group.

Later the same year, an urgent inspection into patient safety was undertaken by the CQC, following serious concerns about the wellbeing of Norwich's patients. During this inspection, CQC identified 'significant and immediate' concerns, such as: a failure by staff to protect young people from carrying out acts of self-harm and a failure to prevent such incidents escalating or recurring; action was not taken following concerns at the last inspection to protect patient's physical health; there were not sufficient skilled staff working on the wards; patients were not routinely treated with respect and dignity; the environment was unclean. Huntercombe Hospital Norwich transferred its eight patients and closed in late 2017.

Watcombe Hall

"One specific staff member chose to spend most of his time with me. I would be tying ligatures then he’d kiss me and not tell anyone. A couple months in, I was getting rapid tranquillised daily and I was so drugged up I couldn’t speak properly. [...] I thought he was doing me favours and I felt like I was in love with him because he manipulated and took advantage of me. Towards the end of this admission most of the night staff were agency; they did several illegal things and also let patients harm themselves and verbally abused us. [...] My admission to Watcombe Hall caused me to have complex post traumatic stress disorder." - *Sofie, FDNH member.

Watcombe Hall re-opened in 2015 as an inpatient CAMHs unit with beds for up to 10 patients, split into a four-bedded PICU and a 6-bedded specialist adolescence unit. Two years later, in September 2017, Watcombe Hall was permanently closed following a damning CQC report and the revelation of a police investigation into the behaviour of a senior member of staff. 

Watcombe Hall was first inspected in October 2015 by the CQC in response to concerns raised about the safety and effectiveness of the Huntercombe Group as an organisation. No rating was given to the service at this first inspection. In February 2016, after its first routine inspection by CQC, Watcombe Hall was rated as 'requires improvement'. Issues identified were: excess blanket restrictions; physical health observations not always followed up by staff; gaps in specialist staffing. A follow-up inspection undertaken in May 2017 placed Watcombe Hall into special measures and found that the service was 'inadequate'. CQC observed that actions had not been taken since their last inspection. A large number of serious failings were also observed: leadership was not robust; there were a high number of incidents including 18 serious incidents in only a 3 month period; there was a dependency on agency staff; new staff were not adequately trained; access to fresh air was overly restricted for patients; the environment was not safe and young people did not feel safe; staff did not know how to make safeguarding alerts and 50% of staff did not have mandatory safeguarding training.

Following this inspection, the three remaining patients were transferred from the service and admissions were frozen. The hospital closed its doors less than two months after CQC's final report was published. In September 2020, a previous Watcombe Hall staff member who had worked at the unit for the two years it was open pled guilty to 21 offences of sexual activity with three female patients by a careworker. All three of the patients groomed and sexually abused by the staff member were patients at Watcombe Hall while they were abused. All three of the patients were children at the time of the abuse.

Cotswold Spa

Huntercombe Hospital Cotswold Spa opened as an independent eating disorder service for people aged 11-25 in 2010. The building was previously used as a retirement home for elderly and/or disabled people. In or around September 2020, healthcare provider Elysium acquired Cotswold Spa from the Huntercombe Group. Neither the cost of this transaction nor the motivation for the sale has been disclosed. (Source)

During the time that Cotswold Spa was owned by the Huntercombe Group, the service was inspected three times by the CQC. The first two inspections, published February 2014 and 2015 respectively, reported that Cotswold Spa was meeting the expected standards in all areas. At its final inspection under Huntercombe's management (published in June 2016), Cotswold Spa was rated as 'good' in each of the five key areas inspected by CQC. 

In August 2015, the building was redesigned so that the first floor accommodated bedrooms and communal areas for patients aged 11 - 18, and the second floor accommodated bedrooms and communal areas for patients aged 18 - 25. Prior to this restructuring, patients of all ages shared accommodation and communal areas. The Care Quality commission report published in 2016 notes that "[there] had been six occasions in the 12 months leading up to the inspection when there had been two patients on the unit with two night staff deployed to cover both patient areas. Staff had asked the older patient to leave their room and sleep in another room on the younger patients’ section of the building. One patient told us they did not like having to do this." Section 131A of the Mental Health Act 1983 (section revised 2010) dictates that all children and young adults under the age of 18 must, by law, be accommodated in an environment that is 'suitable for their age'. The Act identifies that a young person may be accommodated with adult patients in 'emergency situations' or when there is an 'atypical case', however, it is not clear that the 6 incidents referred to by the CQC fell under either category. 

Ivetsey Bank Hospital/Huntercombe Stafford

"Three times a day I would be restrained and dragged through the corridors screaming, kicking and thrashing at strangers hands bruising my skin. “I can’t breathe” I would tell them [...]. Blue gloved hands covered my mouth, another covering one side of my nose as they attempted to insert the tube into the other. “It’s in her lungs” they would conclude [... ] I could not breathe. And then they’d try again. [...] I would scream & fight as much as I could; these people were putting me through my greatest fears in the name of “treatment” & “best interest”. [...] The trauma that I went through at that time was deemed necessary for my own life, but I will never forgive them for putting my own family through that too." - *Isabelle, FDNH member.

Ivetsey Bank Hospital, formerly Huntercombe Stafford, opened as a multi-unit mental health inpatient facility for people aged 13-25 in early 2003 or late 2002. In 2021, after the Huntercombe Group merged with Active Care, Huntercombe Stafford was renamed 'Ivetsey Bank Hospital'. The service remains open and is managed by Active Care Group. As of April 2023, Active Care Group plans to expand Ivetsey Bank Hospital to increase capacity and provision. 

Huntercombe Stafford/Ivetsey Bank has endured a long, complex history, particularly in regard to its relationship with the Care Quality Commission. Whilst named Huntercombe Stafford, under the care of the Huntercombe Group, the hospital received 3 routine (unfocused) CQC inspections under CQC's modern method of rating a service (using the 'Is it caring, safe, effective well-led, responsive?' approach). As a result of these inspections, Stafford received the rating of 'good' once, 'requires improvement' once and 'inadequate' one. It was placed into special measures after receiving an 'inadequate' rating in 2016. Whilst named Ivetsey Bank Hospital, under the care of Active Care Group, Ivetsey has received a further 3 CQC ratings; two 'inadequates' and one 'requires improvement'. The hospital has been in special measures for over two years and remains 'inadequate today'.

Alarmingly, despite Ivetsey Bank having been placed in 'special measures' for the last two years Active Care Group have been granted permission to open a new sister step-down placement, Ivetsey House. You can find more about Ivetsey House hereAt present, Active Care Group have plans to extend its capacity at Ivetsey Bank Hospital by introducing a new 12-bedded CAMHs unit to the site. You can read more about this application, or make a comment on it, here.

Ivetsey House

Having been recently opened, there is not a lot of information available online about Ivetsey House and the service has not yet been inspected or rated by the CQC. We were unable to locate an exact date for when Ivetsey House opened. 

Ivetsey House is a 4-bedded step-down service. Service users residing at Ivetsey House have access to the 'facilities' at Ivetsey Bank Hospital. We'll update this page as more information about Ivetsey House becomes available. If you have experience of care at Ivetsey House, we'd love to here from you.

Taplow Manor/Huntercombe Maidenhead

"She was moved to Huntercombe Maidenhead [which was] was miles away from us, her family. We were unable to see her for 2 weeks and she had her phone taken off her so we had no contact with her. When we did eventually see her two weeks later she was still in the same clothes she was sent in. [...] I would drive 2hrs weekly to see my sister and each time she was more and more drugged up, to the point at times she could hardly communicate. She was getting worse, not better. [...] My sister received no therapy the entire time she was at Huntercombe, and the clinical lead told us in a meeting that they were learning about autism through my sister." - *Alice, 'Through the Glass Doors'.

Taplow Manor in Berkshire was opened by the Huntercombe Group as Huntercombe Maidenhead over twenty years ago. At the end of March 2023, Active Care Group announced the decision to close Taplow Manor by the end of May 2023, claiming, "Due to patient numbers reducing, we will lose specialist staff and therefore the ability to provide an effective and safe service to these young people." Active Care Group blamed "disproportionate" negative press for partially causing the closure of the service.

Like Huntercombe Stafford/Ivetsey Bank Hospital, Huntercombe Maidenhead/Taplow Manor has endured a long, complex history, particularly in regard to its relationship with the Care Quality Commission. The hospital is the longest-running Huntercombe CAMHs unit and has retained the same consultant psychiatrist since 1997. Whilst named Huntercombe Maidenhead, under the care of the Huntercombe Group, the hospital received 3 CQC ratings under CQC's modern method of rating a service (using the 'Is it caring, safe, effective well-led, responsive?' approach). As a result of these inspections, Stafford received the rating of 'good' twice, and 'inadequate' once. It was placed into special measures after receiving an 'inadequate' rating in 2020. Whilst named Taplow Manor, under the care of Active Care Group, Ivetsey has received a further 3 CQC ratings; two 'requires improvements' and one 'inadequate'.

We're extremely concerned to learn of Active Care Group's plans to re-open Taplow Manor as an adult mental health inpatient service. Until Active Care Group are willing to accept its history of serious failings and consistent pattern of inadequate care, the company must not re-open or open services. No good can come of this.

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