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  • Sarah Whitebloom

CCTV Care Home shuts as Cameras fail to protect Vulnerable Residents in Rodent-Infested Conditions.

FRAIL older people were not safe, even in their bedrooms, from the filthy, rodent-infested conditions in Overton House – despite the Manchester home boasting a CCTV monitoring system in all public areas.

Highly-vocal campaigners, led by CCTV suppliers, are demanding that cameras be made mandatory. They will point out that Overton’s system was not monitored independently.

But the fact that such an appallingly bad home boasted a CCTV system will raise questions about the benefits of cameras. As will the fact that, elsewhere in the UK, regulators criticised the care in a home with an independently-monitored system - thereby adding to concerns from leading charities that consumers should not believe cameras guarantee good care.

Earlier this year, Caroline Abrahams of Age UK, said: ‘With all the media stories about abuse and neglect in care homes, it can be tempting to see installing security cameras as "the answer", but Age UK very much doubts this is the case...we would not want there to be a false sense of reassurance about the care on offer to residents.’

The Care Quality Commission paints a horrifying picture of life in camera-ready Overton House, which was closed by its owner before the report was published. Inspectors found residents’ basic ‘human rights’ were not respected and there were disgusting, unsanitary conditions with rodent traps in bedrooms and insects crawling on one of the CQC team.

According to the report: ‘The systemic issues found during this inspection meant there was a disregard for the human rights of people who used the service.

‘We found Overton House to have a serious and widespread problem relating to the control of rodents. Bate traps were located throughout the home, including in resident's bedrooms.’

Cameras had been fitted in all public areas in Overton House, although residents had not been asked for permission for the installation of CCTV, in line with the regulators’ guidance.


OTHER recent CQC reports reveal shocking cases of ‘Inadequate’ care throughout the country – at small, privately-owned care homes and in homes belonging to some of the best known groups in the UK (a separate blog will be issued about these).

The latest reports on smaller groups and private homes show a worrying trend for serial ‘Inadequate’ reports – with homes remaining in special measures for many months and clocking up two, three or even more 'Inadequate' ratings. Unlike Overton House, many of the other 'Inadequate' homes are not shabby, run down establishments, but high-end, purpose-built homes with glossy websites.

Most of the concerns voiced by the CQC teams recently relate to lack of staff - which is seeing residents put at risk and not even washed or cared for adequately. Inspectors found vulnerable individuals crying out for help and others dirty and unkempt in appearance. Some people were not even being given enough to eat or drink, while others were left in urine-soaked beds.

Lever Edge, in Bolton, was formerly ‘Good’ but received an appalling report last week from inspectors, concerned about neglect, disgusting conditions, staffing and even the safety of residents. According to the report: ‘We saw that some people looked unkempt, some ladies' hair was un-brushed and greasy. We found two people with extremely dirty finger nails... Another visitor told us, "Lately lots of fights have broken out between people. [Name] is frightened, but can't walk away from it.’

Meanwhile, Canal Vue at Ilkeston, received its second ‘Inadequate’ report of the year. The 70-bed home now has only 13 residents. According to the distressing CQC report: ‘We found areas of the service to be unclean and infection control was poor....At times there were insufficient staff to meet the needs of people who used the service and this had resulted in people's care being compromised....During the inspection we walked around the service and heard a person who was behind a closed door calling for help.’

Bearnett House in Wolverhampton also failed to break out of its officially ‘Inadequate’ rating. In their latest report, inspectors were highly-critical of the care residents received – even voicing concerns over whether people had enough to eat.

On the other side of the country, at The Windmill in Great Yarmouth, the CQC was damning about the lack of staff and also the practice in the home of placing cling film around the base of beds – to keep them free of urine. The CQC pointed out that the correct action should have been for the home to ensure that residents were changed and cared for properly – rather than leaving them in urine-soaked beds.

Inspectors were also concerned about the levels of staff, potential for abuse and residents’ food consumption at Saxon Lodge in the Kent capital of Canterbury.

‘Sign shortfalls in terms of weight and drinking...These shortfalls had significantly increased the risk that the people in question would not have enough to drink to maintain and promote their health...we found that there were serious shortfalls in the steps that had been taken by the registered persons to safeguard people from the risk of abuse.’

Concerns over a death sent the inspectors into Argyle House in Northants. But again, the CQC report was critical of staffing levels – and the provision of food: ‘We saw that low staffing levels were affecting most aspects of care provision...There were several people who were underweight and at nutritional risk during our inspection....We found evidence that people were not having showers or baths as often as they wished due to a lack of staff. One person told us, "They [staff] don't seem to have time to shower me, I'm lucky if I get one once a month."’

Pity the CQC. As OLM has observed previously, it cannot be everywhere all the time and it is clearly working hard to increase care standards. What used to pass as endemic but acceptable poor practice, is now evidently much more likely to have the inspectors slapping ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’ notices on homes.

As a consequence, establishments which formerly gloried in a ‘Good’ rating have found themselves with negative reports – and they cannot quite believe it. Sometimes, the home has genuinely deteriorated. More often, OLM suspects, it was never that great in the first place and only now is the CQC giving realistic grades to homes.The result is a lot more bad reports. But that is a good thing, for consumers and for care providers, who previously were deluding themselves about the care they provided. If the CQC can actually follow through on this, and make the current system work as well as it can, then things can only get better.

Every day of the working week now more than two residential homes for older people in England are being declared officially ‘Inadequate’ by teams of inspectors. Under new guidance from the Government’s consumer body, the owners of those homes could be forced to pay compensation or refund those residents. The question is: do we have enough Government lawyers to cope?

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