HERTFORDSHIRE police is investigating a death linked to Forest Care Village in Borehamwood, one of the UK’s biggest residential homes, amid concerns over fresh abuse allegations at the 176-bed home. It is not the first time the mega-home has been the subject of a police enquiries. Five years ago, it was the subject of a scandal which hit national headlines with stories of neglect and abuse.
This time, according to the Care Quality Commission, police are focused on the circumstances surrounding a death but, the regulator says, concerns of abuse have also been raised and the local authority has slapped 14 safeguarding orders on residents at the enormous Hertfordshire-based facility.
In a damning report, published this week, the CQC branded the home with its worst ‘Inadequate’ rating after it sent in an unusually large team of investigators shortly before Christmas. The regulator said it sent a team to Forest Care Village because of ‘notifications we received where the cause of death was unclear’.
The CQC added: ‘This incident is subject to a criminal investigation and as a result this inspection did not examine the circumstances of the incident. However, the information shared with CQC about the incident indicated potential concerns about the management of risk of people's care. We received concerning information regarding possible abuse by some staff members towards a person living in the home. This inspection examined those risks.’
A spokesman for Forest Care Village maintained the group was unaware of the police enquiry and the abuse allegations. He said: 'It is deeply disappointing to receive this rating from the Care Quality Commission... particularly as our service was rated ‘Good’ on all areas during the previous inspection 12 months earlier....
'In reference to the potential criminal investigation into a death, we were absolutely unaware of any such investigation until the regulator issued us with the draft report. Again, we have asked for further clarity on this but this has also not been disclosed to us. If this is in the hands of the police and an investigation follows, we will co-operate fully with it.'
However, a spokesperson for the regulator said: 'CQC carried out its inspection of Forest Care Village following concerns that had been highlighted to it. As a result of the inspection CQC took action to protect the welfare of people using the service. We have been working closely with the local authority regarding the home and with Hertfordshire Police which is investigating the death of one resident. We await the outcome of the police investigation.'
And Hertfordshire Police said in a statement: 'We can confirm we have been given details of the death of a man in hospital in October 2017.Officers are making inquiries surrounding the death and these inquiries are on-going at present.'
The CQC sent a highly-unusual eight person inspection team into Forest Care Village Their report details a harrowing picture of life, which concluded with the regulator banning the home from taking any new residents and placing it in special measures.
According to the CQC team: ‘We found that there were serious failings from staff and management to ensure people received care and support in a safe and effective way.’
The CQC’s report makes for upsetting reading, even for an 'Inadequate' care report.
Frail and vulnerable residents were treated without kindness or dignity, according to inspectors. There were too few staff to offer adequate care and carers were not sufficiently knowledgeable or well-trained for the work they were doing. In one instance, the CQC inspectors found a person ‘crying in pain'.
People were found to be at risk of choking and losing weight. Others were at risk of serious pressure sores, while staff admitted they did not know what to do about residents suffering repeated falls. Staff acknowledged they were shorthanded: ‘The majority of the staff we spoke with told us there were not enough. One staff member told us, "We could do with more staff...”’
While some of the more able-bodied residents expressed satisfaction with the home, the CQC team found: ‘People who were more frail and dependent on staff were seen to have very little interaction or kindness shown....We found that, across the home, staff were not always protective of people`s dignity. We observed one staff member leaving a person's room and as we walked by the room, we saw the person sitting on the toilet.’
They added: ‘Although some people were able to voice their needs and feelings we saw little evidence that staff took account and listened to people.’
Some residents indicated to inspectors they feared some staff. The report states: ‘Some people told us that staff were not all nice. One person told us that a member of night staff was, "cross", with them as they had forgotten their name. The person said, "It's the middle of the night, I couldn't help it and because they introduced themselves so now [staff member] barely helps me." The person would not identify the staff member to us. They said, "Most are ok, [staff member] is not. Don't want to tell tales and make it worse."’
In what was a very troubling report, the inspection team discovered serious shortfalls in care staff and commented in particular on a language difficulties.
‘Staff were not able to tell us what people liked, disliked and their needs. We noted that some staff had a language barrier and did not always understand what we were asking them. This would have had an impact on communication with people who were less able, had limited communication skills or had a cognitive impairment.’
The CQC team was clearly moved by what it found at Forest Care Village. In an upsetting passage, they noted: ‘When we spoke with people to find out how they felt living in the home one person got upset and started crying. They said, "I feel neglected."’