- Sarah Whitebloom
CQC refuses to say if known unsafe care homes have been at the centre of Covid-19 outbreaks.
There have been 20,000 Covid deaths in UK care homes and there are fears about a new wave of infections. But, while older and vulnerable people have been banned from seeing their relatives, locked up and denied a family life, the CQC has been deliberately evasive about possible outbreaks in care homes the regulator knew to be unsafe.
A lot of blame has been flung about, however.
Top of the black list has been the Government, for failing to provide PPE.
Next has come the NHS, for allegedly sending sufferers back into homes without notice.
Then, have come concerns about the structural reliance of the sector on poorly-paid, poorly-motivated casual staff, who work for several homes.
All of these things could well be contributing factors. But nothing has been said by CQC - or anyone else - about the possible impact of thousands of care homes, which have been condemned by the regulator's own inspectors.
At any one time, there are hundreds of 'Inadequate' homes and others which 'Require Improvement' - most of which have been found to be unsafe (but are routinely allowed to carry on caring for vulnerable people).
Reports on unsafe homes are full of shocking incidents involving older people being mistreated, even abused, and care inspectors raise concerns about hygiene, standards of care and - infection control, or lack of it.
In a report last February, when Covid was already on the horizon, the inspectors described in one home: ‘People were not consistently protected by the prevention and control of infection. We observed a staff member was not following safe practice in relation to hygiene and infection control and had not used appropriate protective personal equipment.’
Another recent report reveals: 'Staff...understood the need to use gloves and aprons, but good practice was not always followed...There was a low odour of urine throughout the home, particularly noticeable on the third day. Two people were sat on wet arm chairs and a dining chair. These had not been cleaned thoroughly before people sat in them again and smelt. Cleanliness was not of a good standard, especially in the afternoons.’
Another report found: 'There were not always enough staff on duty to ensure people's needs could be met in a safe and timely way. Overnight, there were usually only two staff on duty to support the 20 people living in the home. The manager told us half of these people required support from two members of staff....During lunch, there were times no staff were in the dining room and both the maintenance person and the hairdresser supported people as no care staff were available.'
Meanwhile, yet another report states: 'People and relatives told us low staffing levels and the increased use of agency staff continued to impact negatively on people's experiences. This meant people did not receive consistent good quality, safe care....We saw how low staffing levels continued to impact negatively on people's experiences of living in the home. For example, one person, who was cared for in bed was feeling unwell and continually called out for staff.'
Such reports are not hard to find, they are among the current reports on the CQC website. All these homes are in operation and have been throughout the pandemic.
One can only speculate as to why the CQC won't explain if the virus outbreaks, which have devastated the sector and left 20,000 dead, have been focused on such homes?
Earlier this month, I wrote an article for the Spectator, outlining the problem.