- Sarah Whitebloom
Exceptional Care. Are they kidding? CQC slams 'highest quality' (Inadequate) Merstone Hall
If vulnerable elderly people were not at such serious risk, Merstone Hall’s ridiculous claim to provide ‘exceptional care’ would be funny.
Merstone’s claims on its glossy website [21 April] to be some sort of paradise for older people - with text and pictures to support this fantastic assertion. But earlier this week the care regulator found the Bournemouth home guilty of 12 breaches of regulations intended to protect and safeguard vulnerable residents and produced a damning report which makes clear Merstone Hall is no paradise.
iIt is so bad, it is anything but amusing. According to a report from the Care Quality Commission, Merstone - sole winner of this week's OLM Worst Care Home of the Week award - provides anything but the high class care it claims on its professional-looking website. The 45-bed home was found to be inadequate in every respect - from care to management to safety - and the regulator issued multiple warnings over individual residents and the care home as a whole.
The report made clear the CQC's very real concerns: 'At this inspection we identified serious failings and shortfalls in the care, treatment, wellbeing and safety of people living at the home. These failings and shortfalls placed people at risk of harm. We raised multiple individual and whole service safeguarding alerts with the local authority...We also shared these concerns with the provider, registered manager and other statutory agencies.’
And the report revealed life at the home is far from Merstone’s fanciful claims of delivering the ‘highest quality care’. The CQC found residents neglected and at risk of injury, infection and dehydration. Records were found to be unreliable and inaccurate – so that it was impossible to tell if residents had received the correct care and treatment. Staff struggled to understand residents because of language difficulties. And older people and those living with dementia were routinely ignored and treated with a horrifying lack of respect and dignity.
On the website, Merstone says: ‘Staff provide privacy and dignity and respect individual choices and rights. Resident confidentiality is maintained at all times.‘
In reality: ‘One person was wheeled on a commode from the shower room to their bedroom with just a towel on with most of their body exposed.’
Meanwhile, when a CQC inspector was present: ‘Staff came in to the person's bedroom without knocking...The staff member said the person's name and they did not respond, the staff then tapped them on their face with their fingers and the person still did not wake. The staff then spooned hot food into the person's mouth without explanation and whilst the person's eyes were still shut. The person shouted loudly that the food was hot and was burning their mouth. The staff member then gave them a cold drink without letting them know it was coming and whilst they continued to have their eyes shut. The staff member then repeatedly said the person's name to wake them up.’
Amid the darkness:
Eastbury House, Sherbourne
OLM's Best Care Home of the Week
Merstone claims: ‘Activities are developed to match hobbies and interests and the care staff take great pride in really getting to know the residents. Our staff are experienced at listening, understanding and responding to the needs of each resident.’
In the report, however, the CQC team describes a ‘chaotic and noisy environment’ where more than 50 per cent of staff are from agencies and do not know residents. Meanwhile, the elderly were left without anything to do, looking at walls, crying out for help and forced to endure multiple televisions and music systems playing all at once.
The report states: ‘Some people's clothing was dirty and had food spilt on it and staff did not notice and offer to change people's clothing. Some people looked unkempt and their hair was not styled and was greasy...
‘We raised concerns with the registered manager about people's hair being greasy, unkempt and long, they told us this was because some people's relatives would not pay for people to have their hair done or cut by the hairdresser. However, staff had not taken any other action to ensure that people's preference in relation to their appearance was met.’
In every respect, the home was found wanting but, on the website, the owners say without a hint of irony: ‘Here at Merstone Hall we take a serious and compassionate approach to elderly care. We offer excellent care and accommodation in a relaxed atmosphere where the individual needs and requirements of our residents are paramount.’
Merstone Hall’s use of pictures does raise a smile – for sheer chutzpah. A disclaimer tucked away at the bottom of the page states: 'We have temporarily had to use images that do not accurately reflect our business or our services. This is not in any way meant to mislead.'
Among these pictures, which are not meant to mislead, are lovingly taken shots of various impressive-looking historic buildings see below (which are not the care home), luxurious-looking bedrooms (not in the care home), a manicured park (not in the care home grounds) and a koi enthusiasts' pond (not in the care home’s garden).
A look at Google maps – or indeed a visit to the establishment – would confirm the home’s actual grim 1970s appearance in a residential street in the south coast resort of Bournemouth (see top).
There was no disclaimer about the text, however, or the claim that: 'The proprietors and home manager promote a positive atmosphere within the home and strive to deliver the highest quality of care and protection for their residents.'
Other homes receiving an Inadequate notice since OLM's last report:
Chorley Lodge, Chorley - Orchard Care Homes
Sandhurst Residential Home, Bideford