Private hospital IT failures ‘harming’ patients’ family life

The Priory Hospital in Glasgow PICTURE: Donald MacLeod
The Priory Hospital in Glasgow PICTURE: Donald MacLeod
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Patients in private psychiatric hospital were unable to have video-conference calls with their families because the equipment had been unavailable for several months, an unannounced visit by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWCS) found.

An inspection team which visited the 42-bed Priory Hospital in Glasgow, in October last year, said this was a concern particularly due to the high number of patients transferred long distances for care in Scotland from elsewhere in the UK and sometimes from other EU countries.

“For those receiving prolonged in-patient treatment, we are concerned that this infringes on the right to family life,” the commission said in its report released today.

Managers told inspectors that patients whose families could not afford to travel to Glasgow were not routinely offered help with transport costs, either by NHS England or their local authorities.

Whilst the hospital had a video-conferencing facility which could be used to link up patients and families, on the day of the inspection it was found it had been out of operation for some time.

Following discussions hospital managers said they would urgently prioritise buying a tablet device to allow patients to ‘Skype’ their families.

A total of five recommendations were made including improving how consent formed were filed, enhanced observations, advocacy support and swift access to legal advice for all detained patients, and a review of the activities programme and ensure patients could use them at the weekend.

A spokeswoman for the MWCS, said: “We undertake over 100 local visits like these every year. By publishing our reports we hope to help share good practice where we find it, and call for change where services are lacking.

A spokeswoman for The Priory Group, said: “We are sorry that as a result of technical issues, including around compatibility with other health services, there has been a delay in re-installing equipment, however new video conferencing equipment is being installed within days and should be available for use next week. We are also buying a tablet device to enable patients to maintain ‘virtual’ contact with close family, and this will also be in place soon.”