Treatment can be administered despite lack of accreditation

By Zoë Uglow   |   Reporter   |
Monday 18th July 2022 6:00 am
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Bodmin Community Hospital (IVAN MORRIS )

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A former NHS worker has raised their concerns that the Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) clinic run by Bodmin Community Hospital has been conducting this “controversial” treatment without accreditation.

ECT passes an electric current through the brain, intentionally stimulating a brief seizure and is thought to potentially reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions.

During the COVID pandemic Bodmin’s ECT clinic was moved out of the community hospital in to alternative temporary clinical accommodation, where it struggled to meet the criteria required for accreditation.

Dr Lucy Johnstone, a consultant clinical psychologist based in Bristol, is part of a group called UK ECT Improving Standards Campaign Group. They want to see improvements made to the regulation of ECT.

Dr Johnstone told the Cornish Times: “Most people do not know that ECT still happens. It is a highly controversial treatment based on very poor evidence, and in at least some cases, people say they are left with permanently impaired memory and cognitive functioning. It is particularly important that a potentially risky intervention is carried out according to agreed standards.

“However, it appears that the Bodmin clinic, serving the whole of Cornwall, failed its accreditation two years ago. A clinic that doesn’t even meet the most basic standards of care is described by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as one which poses ‘a significant threat to patient safety, rights or dignity and/or would breach the law. These standards also include the fundamentals of care, including the provision of evidence based care and treatment.’

“It is highly unusual for clinics to lose their accreditation in this way, and implies very serious problems with the service. The clinic is still operating, and the Trust website claims that is fully accredited. This is a scandal. Patients have a right to know that the clinic cannot offer any guarantee of safe practice. Without this, they are being placed at serious risk.”

However, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust says it is hoping to re-join the accreditation programme, a voluntary process, now that the service is back in its original home at the hospital.

In response to the concerns Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “The electroconvulsive therapy accreditation service (ECTAS) is a voluntary network of peer review co-ordinated by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. 

“During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trust moved the service out of its purpose built accommodation at Bodmin Hospital into different clinical accommodation. The service has now returned to its substantive home in the hospital and looks forward to re-joining the accreditation programme at a future date.”

A spokesperson from the Royal College of Psychiatrists confirmed: “ECTAS is a voluntary accreditation process which does not determine whether or not a clinic is able to continue operating. The AC recognise the clinic will struggle to meet the standards in their current premises; the clinic is therefore Not Accredited.

“Yes, clinics can still operate as it is a voluntary network.”

For a range of wellbeing services for people who experience mental health problems visit cornwallmind.org

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