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  • Sarah Whitebloom

Inadequate care at three luxury homes owned by high-end care providers Barchester, HC-One and Bupa

YOU can’t always get what you want, as the song goes. But when it comes to the worst three corporate care homes this month, frail and vulnerable residents sometimes don’t even get what they need (or pay for), according to damning reports from Care Quality Commission.

Despite being owned by three of the best known care groups in the UK, the homes – HC-One’s Pytchley Court in Northampton, Barchester’s Sherwood Lodge in Preston and Bupa’s Battersea-based Meadbank - have each recently been awarded the worst possible rating of ‘Inadequate’ following investigations by teams of CQC inspectors.

The highly-critical CQC reports were all published in November, although the inspections took place weeks or months earlier. This is often a sign that expensive legal teams have tried to water down the CQC’s findings.

Indeed, the report on Barchester’s Preston-based home, states clearly that although multiple regulations were breached, that ‘proposed enforcement [was] withdrawn following a review of representations’. In other words, the regulator intended to take action, but had changed its mind after ‘representations’, presumably from the highly profitable care company’s representatives.

In an unprecedented admission, the CQC said that it had conducted an earlier investigation into Sherwood Lodge, after receiving ‘concerning information’. But the regulator admitted, it had not written a report because of ‘unforeseen circumstances’. One can only wonder what could possibly have derailed publication of a report into a home belonging to the luxury care operator Barchester.

The CQC returned to Sherwood Lodge in the summer to conduct a second inspection, so perhaps we have a glimpse of what might have been in that in that earlier report. According to the inspectors: ‘Not all people who used the service told us they felt safe in the home.’

They added, professionals from the Local Authority ’confirmed they had received a number of safeguarding alerts from the home in relation to incidents and accidents’.

Despite the delayed publication, the report contained concerns about Barchester: ‘The provider failed to ensure people who used the service were protected from abuse and improper treatment.’

In carefully crafted words, the CQC made clear: ‘During our inspection we identified a number of significant failings that impacted on the care people received in the home and placed them at harm or risk of potential harm.’

It also said: ‘During our inspection we identified a number of significant concerns in relation to how the home ensured people received appropriate and timely care.’

Staffing was an issue: 'Comments included, "They are short of staff and they have in my opinion, people who wouldn't know what to do in the event of a fire. I don't feel safe in the night. There were only three [staff] last night", "Not always, the change of managers is unsettling" and "I am frightened, I don't know what to do, let me out, I want to go away from here."’

‘We asked people who used the service and visitors about the staffing numbers in the home. The feedback was generally consistent that not enough staff were in place...."At the moment there are temporary staff", "Not at the moment, two thirds of very good staff have left. There's lots of agency staff, last night there were only three [staff] on".’

‘A visiting professional told us, on occasions I can only describe the home as, "chaotic" staff running around; no-one knows what has been done for a specific person."’

On Barchester’s website, which gives little prominence to the CQC’s damning comments, it states: ‘Sherwood Lodge offers high quality residential care for older people within a charming, purpose-built property.’


Meanwhile, the CQC had little good to say about Pytchley Court, a Northampton-based care home owned by Britain’s biggest care provider, HC-One – whose publicity dubs it the ‘kind care company’.

There was no mention of this hallmark ‘kindness’ in the CQC report, however. It states: ‘The provider has failed to maintain compliance with the regulations; they have repeatedly breached two regulations relating to safe care and treatment and good governance.'

The inspectors added: ‘During the inspection we found serious concerns relating to recognising when people were unwell and referring people for medical care. We raised safeguarding alerts relating to the care and welfare of 11 people.’

And in a clear admonition to HC-One, the report said: ‘The provider had not recognised how people receiving nursing care had been put at risk...The provider failed to ensure people receiving nursing and residential care had systems in place that protected them from the risks associated with medicines, fire safety and poor governance.’

Meanwhile, on the HC-One website, Pytchley was described as: A lovely purpose-built home offering residential, residential dementia, nursing and nursing dementia care.’


Meadbank, a Battersea home owned by Bupa, was on the receiving end of a second ‘Inadequate’ report in 2018 and inspectors warned that the breaches of regulations identified at its last investigation still had not been put right.

‘The only breach of regulation that had been fully met was in regard to complaints,’ the report said. ‘With regard to the breach of regulation in relation to staffing, we found that the provider had not followed their action plan.'

In a horrifying passage, the inspectors said the home was now nearly clear of mice: ‘The home had employed a new contractor to help eradicate the vermin and was taking steps to seal up possible points of entry. Staff told us there were a lot less sightings of mice now.’

But, once again, staffing was an issue and the care company was warned: ‘We found the provider had not fully followed their action plan to ensure there was sufficient staff on duty at all times.’

Very sadly, it seemed, residents were left in bed all day because there were not enough staff: ‘We saw on our first day that many people stayed in bed all day. We asked staff about this and received a mixed response, including "people want to stay in bed" "we don't have enough staff to get everyone up" and "I don't know why they are in bed."’

The impact on those living in Meadbank was clear: ‘One person told us, "I would like a game of cards. This is not a life. If no one comes to see me I sit here all day. The light is not good enough and I'm on my own...Another person said, "I can't do activities, I haven't got proper clothes on....”....A third person told us, "I don't go anywhere as I will need someone with me. I ask them to open the door and they [staff] say we are too busy and walk off".’

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