A PRIVATE rehabilitation unit in Chester for people with brain injuries and neurological conditions has been ordered to make “significant improvements” for the third time in two years.

The government’s health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), rated St Cyril’s Rehabilitation Unit as ‘requires improvement’ in its latest inspection report.

Published on May 31, the document states that enforcement action has now been taken against the owners, St George Healthcare Group.

This means that the managers must soon send the CQC a report detailing the action they intend to take to bring standards up to an acceptable level.

Prior to the report’s publication, a former employee of the unit contacted The Standard to say she had left due to the conditions and stress of working at St Cyril’s.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said staff were expected to be sufficiently qualified to carry out high-level nursing procedures while being paid minimum wage of £8.21 per hour.

They also received no pay for sick days or holiday, and had been underpaid on a number of occasions, leading to a high turnover of staff, she said.

“I think that the treatment of staff is appalling,” the former employee told this newspaper. “The managers are strolling around without a care in the world while the staff are running around like idiots for minimum wage.”

A spokesman for St Cyril’s refuted this, saying any discrepancies in pay are always corrected in the following month’s paycheque.

She added: “Our team do an incredible job looking after our patients every day, and we aim to focus on attracting and retaining the best staff we can.

“Salary levels are in line with sector norms, and our generous incentives package includes pensions, medical insurance, flexible working and other benefits."

Opened on the Countess of Chester Health Park in 2009, the 26-bed unit looks after patients who require specialist rehabilitation and management programmes due to issues such as chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, acquired brain injury, stroke and spinal injuries.

The CQC undertook its latest inspection due to concerns “identified through routine monitoring” as well as “concerns raised externally”.

Following inspections in March 2017 and May 2018, concerns remained over the use of safety monitoring results and the management of patient safety incidents.

Inspectors found 46 of the 145 incidents reported between October 2018 and March 2019 had not yet been closed.

Furthermore, they discovered that in 18 sample incidents there was “limited documented evidence” to show action had been taken to reduce the risk of similar situations in the future.

Records also showed that not all staff had completed mandatory training and some information on patients’ records was either “difficult to find or was missing”.

“The service had not always provided sufficient numbers of staff with the right qualifications, skills and training to keep people safe from avoidable harm and to provide the right care and treatment,” the report states.

However, the CQC also highlighted several areas of good practice, such as equipment being both suitable and well looked after and the recruitment of a new director of nursing.

The spokesman for St Cyril’s said they intended to appeal against the CQC’s judgement.

She said: “The health and wellbeing of our patients is always our absolute priority, which is reflected by the fact that 100 per cent of respondents described us as ‘caring and friendly’ in a recent patient survey. We were disappointed by the findings of the CQC inspection, and as such plan to lodge an appeal.

“We look forward to working cooperatively with the CQC, and other external stakeholders to demonstrate our commitment providing a safe, effective and caring rehabilitation service within St Cyril’s.”