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  • Sarah Whitebloom

CQC to shut Fawlty Towers care home

A genuine Fawlty Towers care home has emerged from the official reports this week. The description by the Care Quality Commission’s inspectors is compellingly dreadful, take-your-breath-away ghastly in the same way as an episode of the John Cleese situation comedy – except this was real life, as experienced in a care home in ‘Wild’ West Sussex.*

Whitewaves in Selsey was dreadful, according to the report and came complete with its very own Basil Fawlty, in the shape of a domineering owner/manager, sadly with no Sybil to talk sense. As with many ‘Inadequate’ homes, Whitewaves was found to be unsafe, there were concerns about malnutrition and ‘handling’ of residents. But from the dry report emerged a figure better placed in fiction – the dictatorial, angry and insensitive owner/manager.

Whitewaves care home

You did not need to read between the lines to realise what the inspectors were trying to say. From the word go, the report states that there was an ‘observed reluctance to work with healthcare professionals in a constructive and professional manner’.

This could mean a lot of things, but later the report continues: ‘The registered manager did not act on feedback received from professionals to improve the service because they did not believe the service was at fault.’

Sounds a bit negative, but there might be another side...mightn’t there?

As the report progresses, the owner/manager takes centre stage. Unlike Basil when the hotel inspector came calling, she was clearly not bothered about the CQC team being on the premises. And it was not the sort of attitude to which inspectors are accustomed.

Managers more usually attempt to conceal problems and curry favour with the CQC. But the report states: ‘We were told by health professionals visiting the service on a daily basis that they had to visit the service in 'pairs' due to the 'behaviour' of the registered manager, which they found to be 'intimidating'.’

The CQC goes on to describe events in the home to support this: ‘We observed the registered manager instructing a person to 'lie on their bed' and to 'wait for staff' to return to support them, which the person did without delay.’

Those words ‘without delay’ tell the story.

The report continued: ‘The person was sent to lie on their bed with their trousers and undergarments around their lower legs, exposing them in an undignified manner. Their bedroom door was left open and the person was in view of the visiting inspection team. Their bedroom opened into the main communal area of the home. We had to ask the registered manager to take immediate action to protect this person's dignity and privacy.’

The owner/manager was not one to pay much attention to criticism and there are hints of favouritism in the sort of regime she ran: ‘An identifiable group of people were clearly excluded and not offered to partake in nail painting or any other activity suitable for their preferences.’

It was clear the regulator’s team did not know how to react: ‘The registered manager behaved inappropriately towards visiting professionals during the inspection process [the visiting professionals appear to be the CQC team].

‘Throughout the inspection the registered manager made comments to professionals and was observed by us to forcefully throw bags that contained personal belongings into a corridor because the items were said to have been in their way. These bags had been packed by healthcare professionals to support a person to move to a more appropriate location to meet their needs.’

And the team received little respect from some other staff: ‘A staff member behaved inappropriately towards professionals during the inspection and were heard to say, 'Are you both going to stand there and watch me?' to healthcare professionals observing their competence to support a person safely. This demonstrated poor leadership and staff that acted in the manner displayed by the registered manager.’

Hilarious, it may sound, but very vulnerable people were living at Whitewaves and it is hard to imagine that the owner/manager has suddenly changed personality.The Local Authority has been warning about the home for a little while on its website and the CQC has now given notice that it is cancelling the provider's registration. But you have to go back five years since the home last had a good inspection report. During that time, the CQC and, presumably, local professionals in pairs have been visiting. How could they have allowed this situation to develop? Was she really that intimidating?

Although Whitewaves takes some beating, it would be wrong not to mention two other homes:

Sutton Grange is owned by the high-end operator Barchester. Based in Southport, the home received a damning ‘Inadequate’ report after being called in by the local services.

At the root of most of the problems was lack of staff - although there is also a criminal investigation under way. And the inspectors even noted that extra numbers were brought in for the inspection, according to staff - something, perhaps, they could have done with at Whitewaves.

Sutton Grange

Barchester’s website, which boasts the home has a 9.1 score from an industry website, claims: ‘We always aim to deliver bespoke care to those who live at our home. We tailor our services to meet the unique requirements of each person and in a way that celebrates their individuality, whilst also helping residents to maintain as much independence as possible and treating them with dignity at all times.’

But the inspectors said: ‘The inspection was prompted in part by notification of an incident relating to one person who had lived at the home. At the time of the inspection the incident was subject to a criminal investigation and as a result this inspection did not examine the circumstances of the incident.’

As for their claims of bespoke care, the report states: ‘We saw one person had trousers on that were too small for them. This exposed the continence aids they were using. And another whose clothing was clearly far too large and we saw their trousers fall down whilst they were mobilising.

And, sadly, the CQC added: ‘Throughout our inspection we saw very few activities taking place and where we saw some activities; people didn't engage in them. We observed on one of the units none of the people were engaged in any meaningful activity by staff.’

The fact that the home had received an ‘Inadequate’ report was on the company’s website, with little prominence and towards the bottom of the page in small letters.

Finally, mention must be made of Whistable's Lyndhurst Rest Home, recipient of another ‘Inadequate’ report this week – its second. The home was found to have too few staff and residents were treated with a lack of respect and dignity.

According to the report: 'We observed a person being supported with a hoist in the main lounge, where other people, staff and visitors sat. Staff rummaged between the person's legs for the hoist sling with no conversation or reassurance offered. As they hoisted the person into the air their bare thighs were completely exposed.

'When staff realised they were being observed, they attempted to pull down the front of the person's skirt but this had no impact on the back of the skirt which was gaping open and showing the person's underwear.This was not respectful of the person's right to dignity.'

*A catalogue of scandals and problems at care homes in the county, have led it to be dubbed ‘Wild’ West Sussex.

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