EVERY day of every week of the year, official reports show that older people in this country are living and suffering in chaotic and understaffed care homes. The filthy, squalid circumstances in which they are forced to live, the lack of care and daily humiliation they endure, would bring shame on any advanced society let alone a G20 nation. And yet, last week, this week and next week, reports of appalling care and neglect are there for anyone to see.
Even worse, this has become routine and long-term. In the last two weeks, more than 20 care homes for our most vulnerable citizens, have received the lowest possible rating from the Care Quality Commission. These range from small privately-owned residences to mega-sized corporate homes, housing dozens of older people. In simple terms, the ratings mean that they are not safe places for older people to live.
Many of these homes have received multiple warnings. Often, they carry on for years dishing up totally substandard care, while unseen older residents endure lives of misery behind glossy exteriors.
Among the worst of the last fortnight are homes belonging to reputable chains and locally-run establishments. In common, they have received excoriating reports.
Family-owned Red Rose in Newark received its second bad report in less than a year. The CQC was concerned about basics such as handling of medicines and infection control. It found there were too few staff to keep residents safe. According to the report: ‘We were disappointed to find that the new owners had made no significant improvement in service quality.’
Apparently, the home changed hands in the summer. Up to September, it was owned and run by one Roger Daniel. It is now owned and run by Red Homes Healthcare, which was established by Margaret and Michael Daniel.
According to the report, the change of ownership has not fed through to better care: ‘When we discussed staffing levels with the quality director she told us that she used a 'dependency tool' to identify the correct staffing levels...She also said that she thought the current care staffing level was "fine". However...it was clear from the feedback from people, visitors and staff and our observations that care staffing levels were not "fine" and were in reality insufficient to meet people's physical and emotional support needs and to keep them safe.’
It was not the first time that The Beeches in Kelloe had a bad report either. CQC archives show it has received three negative reports in a year, with concerns over the lack of staff, the poor condition of the premises and the treatment of the residents.
Ingham Old Hall in Norwich was also back for more criticism. It has not had a ‘good’ report since 2016. Despite an impressive website, which includes claims of specialised care from a ‘fully staffed’ home, the latest CQC report said: ‘Low staffing levels impacted on people's access to meaningful activities and maintenance of hobbies and interests...people told us they often felt "bored"...
‘The service had poor cleanliness and poor furnishing throughout the home. We found bedrooms, communal bathrooms and toilets that had a strong malodour throughout each day.’
A very worrying picture emerged of River View home in Reading, which is owned by the Maria Mallaband care group. It can take more than 135 residents in its purpose-built property. But, according to the report: ‘The CQC received intelligence during the inspection, including staff and family members raising concerns for people's safety residing at the service. The issues raised included people being put at risk, due to poor documentation and recording systems. Concerns were also raised around medication management as well.’
According to the Maria Mallaband website: ' 'Whatever your tastes or requirements, we want you to feel at home when staying with us.'
But Greenford Care Home in Gillingham, Kent, which is owned by the Purelake Healthcare group was stand-out but for the wrong reasons. The CQC report described a chaotic home with insufficient staff and residents at serious risk.
One resident was choking on their food during the inspection, so that the CQC ordered an ambulance to be called – against the wishes of staff: ‘The registered manager was reluctant to call an ambulance. They told us it wasn't needed, and despite us asking them to call an ambulance they did not do so immediately and we had to intervene twice for this to happen.’
Note to care home, if the CQC tells you to call an ambulance, it’s a good idea to do it.
The inspectors found much else to be critical about. According to the report: ‘Staffing levels were insufficient to meet people's needs and ensure their safety...One person told us they had been asking since 8am for support to get out of bed. They were not supported to do this until 11:30am....
‘People's care records showed that the frequency of bathing or hair washing was between five and eight weeks...People sat in chairs for large parts of the day with little stimulation.’
We have kept the worst until last. The CQC team had nothing good to say whatsoever about The Croft Care home in Normanton near Wakefield, where it found some staff had a complete lack of empathy’ for the vulnerable residents.
In fact, the home, which is owned by Croft care has never had a ‘Good’ report from the CQC and has a history of bad care going back to 2012, before the current inspection system, when the early regulator said: ‘The Croft Care Home was not meeting one or more essential
standards. Action is needed.’
Sadly, six years later, the regulator found just about every type of poor practice was present in what was clearly a chaotic environment. There was under-staffing, lack of training, squalid circumstances and fire risks – among other factors. On the first day of the inspection, the care coordinator cooked the main meal.
According to the CQC: ‘There was little promotion of dignity or respect as people's needs were openly discussed. There was limited evidence of people deciding how to spend their day and there was insufficient activity to engage them.’
They continued: ‘The smell of urine increased during the day as people's continence needs were not met...Premises and equipment were not clean. The lounge had armchairs which were stained, and sometimes damp cushions...We found some people's rooms were in a poor state....Not all people had sheets on their mattresses or duvet covers.’
There was a palpable sense in the report of how unsafe the home was. The inspectors said: ‘We saw one person playing with a lighter in the dining area.’
Staff did not appear to know how to care properly for residents: ‘We had to intervene in one instance where a person was laid in bed...being served food of an incorrect consistency. This could have resulted in a choking incident. The care assistant who was working in the home for the first time had not been made aware of the risks to this person as no one had spoken with them about people living in the home before they had begun their shift.’
People's signs of distress were ignored, people's privacy was not respected and there was little regard for discretion. Families voiced concerns about residents. But Croft's website boasts: 'In our care homes we specialise in providing quality care. [sic]'