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  • Sarah Whitebloom

Four deaths led care inspectors to 'Inadequate' Sussex Health Care home

The deaths of four vulnerable adults led care investigators to inspect Orchard Lodge, one of the Sussex Health Care homes at the centre of a major Police enquiry. Today, in a hard-hitting report, the Care Quality Commission inspection team delivered a damning verdict on the Horsham-based home, its owners, management and the squeeze on staff and they placed it in ‘special measures’. The report gave Orchard Lodge the worst possible rating – Inadequate – with questions raised by the CQC inspectors over the safety of residents.

According to the report: ‘The inspection was prompted, in part, by notification of four historical service user deaths from 2016, the circumstances of which were raised as a concern in April 2017. There have also been five subsequent safeguarding and quality concerns raised by partner agencies. These incidents and safeguarding concerns are the subject of a police investigation and as a result this inspection did not examine the circumstances of specific incidents.’

The five-strong inspection team did not investigate particular incidents, which are part of the Police enquiry. But they looked closely at the safety of the Sussex Health Care facility’s residents. In the report, serious concerns are raised about the lack of staff and inadequate training – so that, in some cases, staff do not have the necessary skills to care for the complex needs of residents. Sussex Health Care’s position is not to be underestimated. The inspectors said: ‘If not enough improvement is made within this timeframe so that there is still a rating of inadequate for any key question or overall, we will take action in line with our enforcement procedures to begin the process of preventing the provider from operating this service.’

In a report packed with major concerns, the CQC recorded that, although staff ‘presented as kind and caring’, they did not have enough time to see to the needs of their vulnerable charges – many of whom are entirely dependent on assistance.

All staff working at the home told us they felt the home needed more staff to meet people's needs safely. One staff member said, "We are struggling, we are short staffed". Another staff member told us, "There is not enough staff", they added, "How can it be safe?" A third member of staff told us, "The service users aren't getting their care needs met, we don't have enough time to spend with them".

Even while the inspection was taking place - when care homes usually put on the best possible show - the Sussex Health Care home failed to give a good impression in one of its wings: ‘...we became increasingly concerned about the support people received in Orchard West.’

The inspectors added: ‘At 9.55am we found six people were sat alone in the communal lounge without staff support whilst one person was supported by both staff in the bathroom. The inspectors called out to gain the attention of the two staff yet, as they were in the bathroom, they were unable to hear our calls. Staff told us how the low staffing levels had impacted people's health and well-being in the past.’

They also raised concerns about the culture at Orchard Lodge and reported concerns over staff capabilities and training and the management of the home: ‘Shortly after our inspection the area manager wrote to us and told us they were holding a staff meeting they said, 'An agenda item will be to encourage and remind staff of the appropriate way to raise any concerns they may have'. However we had serious concerns about what this indicated about the leadership and culture of the service that staff either did not know how or did not feel able to raise serious concerns they had about neglect of people's needs.’

In a report full of technical detail about the highly-complex nature of the care that is needed by Orchard Lodge’s residents, the inspectors reported that staff were concerned about the people living at the home. And, although relatives were generally happy with the care, the inspectors clearly were not. Inspectors are still investigating several other Sussex Health Care homes. Click

to see the full CQC report.

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