Thursday 18 January 2018
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Staff sacking and suspensions over poor elderly care

One staff member has been sacked and seven suspended from one of England's largest care homes after an undercover probe by BBC Panorama found poor care.

The filming at the Old Deanery in Essex showed some residents being taunted, roughly handled and one was slapped.

The home said it was "shocked and saddened by the allegations".

Exclusive Care Quality Commission (CQC) figures show over a third of homes that received warning notices in 2011 still do not meet basic standards.

Allegations of poor care and mistreatment at the 93-bed home in Braintree, where residents pay roughly £700 per week, were first raised by 11 whistleblowers in August 2012.

Essex County Council put it on special measures for three months until concerns were addressed.

But secret filming by Panorama's undercover reporter over 36 shifts found many of the same sorts of issues reported a year earlier, including:

  • a woman slapped by a care worker who had previously been complained about for her poor attitude towards residents
  • the same woman, who has dementia and is partially paralysed after a stroke, was also repeatedly mocked and taunted by other care workers
  • cries for assistance from a resident suffering a terminal illness ignored as she sought help for the toilet, and her call bell for assistance left unplugged on one occasion
  • a resident bed-ridden with a chronic illness left lying in his own excrement after two care workers turned off his call bell without assisting him

Last November, while Panorama was undercover, the home was inspected by the regulator and passed for the first time in 18 months.

When the CQC revisited this February after being told about Panorama's findings, they found too few staff and some residents waiting an "unacceptably long time" for call bells to be answered.

Anglia Retirement Homes Ltd, which runs the Old Deanery, said the incidents involved a "small number of staff" and were not reflective of the high standards of care it demanded.

A statement said: "As soon as the new management team was made aware of the allegations we took immediate action. We hired an independent law firm to carry out a full investigation as a matter of urgency. Eight staff were immediately suspended, and have not returned to work, pending a full inquiry.

"Our priority remains the health and wellbeing of our residents and we have more than 200 dedicated members of staff who remain committed to the highest standards of care."

It added: "The care worker responsible for slapping a resident has been summarily dismissed."

Whistle-blowers

The company was taken over by new owners in November 2013.

A former care assistant at another home, who became a whistleblower, said that she had experienced problems not being solved. Eileen Chubb, runs a charity called Compassion in Care which supports people reporting misconduct in the industry.

She has had nearly 2,000 calls to her helpline in 14 years and she often found repeated complaints about the same problems in the same homes.

"Every day cases are coming in where there has been up to 15 staff, 20 staff, raising concerns, then six years later, more staff raising the same concerns, again," she said.

The CQC said it would work with the care sector to improve standards, but it was determined to ensure problems were addressed.

Its new chief inspector of social care, Andrea Sutcliffe, said: "There are organisations who are running care homes, they're getting paid to provide care and to provide support.

"And they need to be making sure that they're meeting the needs of the people who are using those services, they're making money out of these services. People shouldn't be getting into this business if they don't care."

Minister for Care and Support Norman Lamb said poor standards of care were intolerable.

"There's a stubborn minority of care providers who do not meet acceptable standards and those are the ones that we have to tackle.

"We have to send out the message that there should be no place in our care services for providers of that sort."

Panorama: Behind Closed Doors: Elderly Care Exposed on BBC One on Wednesday 30 April at 21:00 BST and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.