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  • Sarah Whitebloom

Care homes unsafe with lack of staff, says CQC...Try paying a decent wage.

IF evidence were needed that care homes are putting vulnerable residents at risk by employing too few staff, take a look at the Care Quality Commission’s 'Inadequate' reports for the last fortnight. Eighteen inspections found that, in more than 80 per cent of cases, there were not enough staff to provide safe care. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Hundreds of older and vulnerable people are being placed at risk, according to CQC reports. In a damning insight into the industry, the regulator revealed this week that one in three nursing homes is officially ‘unsafe’.

In an overwhelming number of cases, this is a direct consequence of home owners employing too few staff to look after the residents. The care industry claims it cannot provide adequate care because Local Authorities are not paying enough. And it frequently points out there is a national shortage of care staff, including nurses – which will only worsen after Brexit, when employers will no longer be able to rely on cheap labour from Eastern Europe.

However, the CQC reports show even homes specialising in private clients who pay as much as £1,500 a week, are not employing enough staff. Owners complain they cannot recruit – yet fail to take the obvious free market step: of paying more money. As every GCSE economics student knows, higher wages attract more staff. If they pay more money and offer better conditions, ‘exclusive’ care homes would be able to recruit. The trouble is, they don’t want to pay more. Profits would be lower – which is why 1 in 3 nursing homes in the country is safe.

In the latest raft of CQC reports there are high-end homes and more modest residences. Some have received multiple bad reports, others have only recently been down-graded. All are unsafe, according to the CQC, but still charging for ‘care’. OLM’s worst homes of the fortnight include several promising ‘luxury’ living but all are criticised over staffing in their latest reports:

Grove Villa, Deal in Kent, is small home for people with disabilities. It has just been awarded its third ‘Inadequate’ report in just 15 months. According to the CQC: ‘...we found that people were not safe living at Grove Villa Care. People were not protected from the risk of abuse and were not protected from harm.

‘Two people had been hit by another person and one had bruises which were unexplained. The registered persons had not taken action to investigate these incidents and prevent them from happening again.’

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Surrey, Holmwood Nursing Home boasts on its website: Everyone is treated with dignity and respect with complete understanding and sensitivity to their individual needs and wishes.’

But the inspection team said: ‘People were left in bed still waiting to receive their personal care at 12.30pm on the day of the inspection and staff told us this was a usual occurrence. One member of staff said, "There's too much stress on us" whilst another said people were "Staying in bed longer" when the staffing levels were lower..

‘People were allowed to live in an environment that was unclean, smelled strongly of urine which affected most areas, people had insufficient staff to support them.’

The Links in Bradford, meanwhile, presents itself as an exclusive residential home. On its website, the owner boasts about ‘unrivalled care for your relatives’.

But the reality is that in the 80-resident home: ‘Staff told us there were not enough staff. One member of care staff told us, "There is not enough staff here. I feel it's unsafe and an accident waiting to happen."’

The Old Hall in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, also presents a very impressive face, claiming on its website: ‘Unlike the bigger corporations, we are a small family run care home and pride ourselves on the fact that the care and well-being of our residents always come first.’

However, the CQC said: ‘There had been 88 falls recorded in the previous seven months. Some people had suffered multiple falls and there had been a lack of adequate measures put in place to reduce these falls.

‘For example, one person who was living with dementia had suffered a fall that had resulted in a serious injury for which they required surgery. Following their return to the service after surgery they had fallen a further 20 times before they had been referred to the falls team.’

Barrowhill Hall, Uttoxeter, on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border is another home with an exclusive image. It describes itself as ‘award winning’ despite its damning ‘Inadequate’ report. Its website claims: ‘At Barrowhill Hall we provide the finest, tailored residential and nursing services to all individuals who choose to live with us. Round the clock nursing and personal care is always on hand.’

The CQC found a different story: ‘Staff told us they did not feel there was enough of them to safely meet people's needs. One staff member said, "You have to prioritise who needs care first because you can't get to everyone as soon as they need it."

...Staff told us they had communicated their concerns to the registered manager and provider but that nothing had changed. A staff member said, "The staffing is ridiculous. Some staff are very stressed. We have told them [registered manager and provider] but nothing changes. It's not fair. They have a set number of staff decided but they don't consider the time it takes to deliver person-centred care."’

The claims made by homes would be laughable if it were not so appalling to think that older and vulnerable people are still enduring such 'care' and paying for the privilege.

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