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  • Sarah Whitebloom

Worst Care Homes of the Week: routine mistreatment of older people is abuse

ROGUE carers hit the headlines, and rightly so, when news emerges of abuse. But recent Care Quality Commission reports indicate most poor care is caused by the routine profit-driven mistreatment of older people. Official reports describe a financially-rooted casual indifference on the part of care homes, bent on maximising revenue rather than providing care.

While we obsess over whether certain groups in society are discriminated against, vulnerable and older people are routinely and regularly treated in a way that would have most citizens running for their lawyers. A genuinely negative attitude towards the vulnerable, is not just apparent in care homes but in society as a whole. But in care homes, people are uniquely vulnerable to pernicious mistreatment and the whims of the free market. It is not a pretty sight.

Four care homes share the OLM ‘prize’ for the ‘Worst Care Home of the Week’ today and in CQC reports on each, published between 20 October and 3 November, are clearly visible signs of routine institutional indifference and lack of respect From Yorkshire to the Isle of Wight, from a small local home to a fancy residence owned by one of the UK’s most well-known high-end operators, each of this quartet of homes is very different. But in one respect they are the same: they show a lack of regard for their residents – whether they are paying top dollar from savings or being funded by their Local Authority.

Castletroy in Luton, Bedfordshire; Long Meadow in Ripon, North Yorkshire and the Old School House in Plymouth, Devon, each have a clean sweep of negative ratings – including for care, safety, management and efficiency. While a damning report on the Barchester-owned Vecta House, on the Isle of Wight, places the home firmly in the running for prizes, despite the luxury provider’s evident attempt to tone down the CQC report. The inspection took place in May and the report has only just been published - suggesting there has been some discussion, perhaps with lawyers.

At each home, however, vulnerable older people were on the receiving end of poor care, and a shocking but routine lack of respect which suggests a profits-over-care culture.

At Castletroy, 61 older people were in residence at the home. There was not much found to laugh about by the CQC. But, presumably, ironically it boasts on its website: Respect, Dignity, Fulfilment, Independence, Individuality and Security.

Respect and dignity were in short supply. The CQC sent in the inspectors because there had been concerns that residents were being woken in the middle of the night and dressed – to fit in with the home’s routine, rather than their own wishes.

The inspection team arrived at 6am, according to the report: ‘One person was in bed fully dressed. This person was fast asleep with their light off. Two other people were partially dressed in bed asleep. We also found six people were up and dressed in the reception areas of the home. Four of these people were asleep either in their wheelchairs or in armchairs. In addition to this, we found two people were up and dressed, sitting in their rooms. One of these people were staring in a vacant way at the wall in front of them, they looked unkempt.’

This is not ‘abuse’ in the general meaning of the word, but it betrays a degrading attitude. The inspectors also noted: ‘We looked at one person's record and saw that on 28 August 2018 they had been weighed and had lost 31.4 percent of their body weight in the last month.’

If someone treated a dog in this way, the RSPCA would act.

At the swish-looking Old School House in Devon, £750-per week residents were not hoiked out of bed while it was still dark, as they were in Bedfordshire. Instead, they were left languishing in bedrooms until it was nearly lunchtime, desperate for something to eat or just to get dressed.The home's website claims: 'Our first priority is to deliver a standard of care that is second to none, whilst still maintaining a relaxed and homely environment.'

In reality, the inspectors found: ‘Between 11.30am and 12 midday on the first floor we saw multiple people ringing for attention and/or calling for staff. Some were crying out asking for the toilet. One person said, "Help me to get washed and dressed. There were simply not enough staff: ‘People were left isolated in their bedrooms and their calls for assistance went unanswered.’

Such lack of concern was evident too in Ripon, North Yorkshire, at Long Meadow home. This time the inspection team discovered a filthy, stinking living environment, even a pool of urine on a chair.

‘People were living in bedrooms that had unpleasant odours and dirty equipment such as overlay mattresses and commodes. People were not being supported to wash or bathe on a regular basis which meant their skin integrity was put at risk and they appeared unkempt.’

Meanwhile, at Vecta House, a high-end Barchester home on the Isle of Wight, the inspectors specified breaches of eight regulations and has ordered the home to report each month on progress. Vecta did not apparently have bad ratings for everything. On its website, the home claimed: 'As with all Barchester care homes, our high standards are reflected throughout the home in the hospitality, food and activities we provide.'

No staff in sight

However, a shortage of staff was cause for considerable concern here. According to the report: ‘There were widespread and systemic failings identified during the inspection which are detailed throughout this report. Failings included shortfalls relating to treating people with respect and dignity, medicines, infection control, risk assessments, care planning and consent.’


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