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  • Sarah Whitebloom

Care Regulator plays catch-up as vulnerable people at risk in unsafe homes

A shocking litany of injuries, abuse, police investigations - even deaths - is contained in recent reports by England’s care regulator. The Care Quality Commission's reports highlight its failure to identify or prevent dozens of incidents in care homes throughout the country - leaving hundreds of vulnerable people at risk and open to mistreatment.

As if proof were needed that the system of care regulation is failing, these latest ‘Inadequate’ reports demonstrate serious incidents have taken place in 'Good' care homes throughout the country. These were not uncovered by official inspectors during routine investigations. Instead, homes were branded 'Inadequate' only after news of a death, injury or abuse had reached the CQC and, in some cases, after criminal investigations were underway.

Chelmer Valley care home

Between 21 July and 10 August, research by OLM shows, 26 care homes for older people were slammed with ‘Inadequate’ CQC reports. This is the worst rating a home can receive. The overwhelming majority were declared unsafe. In at least three quarters of cases, the CQC had sent inspections teams to investigate following ‘incidents’ and ‘information of concern’. And, in more than one in three cases, the regulator had previously rated the home ‘Good’.

For those looking for care for relatives, the fact that there is such unidentified mistreatment of older people will cause concern at the inability of the regulatory system to prevent abuse.

CQC relies on occasional inspections, supplemented by third party information. Time after time, serious problems are only uncovered after older people have been placed at risk. The reports explicitly mention two deaths, three serious injuries, 10 ‘incidents’ and two cases of abuse.

There are so many dreadful reports, it is hard to identify an OLM Worst Home of the Week. But there are nine homes which deserve ‘special’ mention:

Cedar Lodge, Stockton-on-Tees had only recently been inspected by the CQC, and given a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating. But inspectors returned to the home a few days after the previous report was published and stated: ‘Since the last inspection in January 2017, eight incidents of abuse had been substantiated for neglect and organisational abuse. This meant there was evidence that abuse had taken place. Three of these alerts had been raised by the registered manager and five from health and social care professionals.’

The report also said: ‘The Commission is aware of an incident which occurred in 2016 where a person died. This incident is subject to an investigation by the police and coroner.’

A report in July into The Orchards in Swindon, which was previously rated ‘Good’, stated: ‘The inspection was prompted in part by notifications received from the registered manager relating to incidents where one person had sustained a serious injury and one person had died.’

Mulberry Court, in Luton, received an ‘Inadequate’ report on 25 July. Inspectors went into the Bedfordshire home, which had previously been rated ‘Good’ by the CQC. According to the latest report: ‘Following a serious safeguarding incident and there was not a full investigation into what had happened to try and prevent it from happening again. We found that staff knowledge of how to protect people from harm was not complete.’

Chelmer Valley, in Chelmsford - see picture top - is one of Britain’s largest homes, with purpose-built accommodation for some 140 people. But it was given an ‘Inadequate’ report on 26 July after inspectors said: ‘We carried out this inspection due to significant concerns about the safety of people at the service from health and social care professionals and members of the public.’

In a horrifying report, the CQC details mistreatment at the new home, which claims: ‘Compassion, dignity and respect are the foundation stones of care provided at Chelmer Valley.’

Ashley Lodge, in New Milton is owned by the high-end group Bupa. It too had previously boasted a ‘Good’ report, but the home received an ‘Inadequate’ report on 3 August. The report stated: ‘We brought forward a scheduled inspection in response to several concerns and complaints that had been raised with us about staffing levels, the standard of people's care, cleanliness of the environment and medicines errors.’

Park House in Newcastle is another ‘corporate’ home, this time owned by the Akari Group – which is controlled through a web of companies by a Cayman Islands’ vehicle Csp Iv (Cayman 2) LP.

‘You Care. We Care’ is the Akari motto. But there were allegations of abuse at the home. The CQC slapped it with an ‘Inadequate’ report on 25 July 'after CQC received an anonymous allegation of abuse at the home. We reported these concerns to the police, local authority safeguarding team and the provider. These concerns are subject to an investigation’.

Moving to the Midlands, we come to Chelmunds Court in Birmingham, owned by the Runwood Group – which has not been having a good week. Mulberry Court is also one of theirs. The CQC gave the new home, Chelmunds, the worst possible report on 28 July – a separate ‘Inadequate’ rating for every single aspect of life in the home. This inspection was brought forward, ‘due to concerns we had received from relatives, staff and external agencies’.

Finally, mention must be made of Greaseborough Residential in Rotherham. Looks swish but sounds nasty and is nasty, according to the CQC rating. The report on 27 July gave the home ‘Inadequate’ grades across the board, with no redeeming features. This followed ‘information’ being shared with the CQC. The home had been sitting on a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating for a year. But the latest report states: ‘Prior to the inspection visit we gathered information from a number of sources.’

Click on the icon to see a recent story about care home regulation by OLM's editor in the Spectator

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