1. ITV Report

ITV Exposure: Who Cares? Investigating Britain's care homes

ITV Exposure investigates some systematic failures and even a case of criminal wilful neglect in Britain’s care homes and examines if the regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), is up to the job of overseeing them.

Exposure examines the care elderly people get in Britain's care homes Credit: ITV

Exposure talks to former unit manager, Niamh McGarry Gribbin, and Pauline Slaughter about the wilful neglect of her mother, Joyce Farrow, a resident in a Bupa run home. Her poor treatment was brought to the attention of the police by the hospital that treated Mrs Farrow. The CQC had not inspected the home for three years.

Responding to Pauline's claims Bupa said:

We are committed to the welfare of our residents. ... [if] our care falls below the high standards we aim for, we work hard to put it right.

We are very upset that we let down Mrs Farrow ... and have apologised to her daughter.... This did not reflect overall care throughout the home.

We have completed [a] planned £750,000 refurbishment [at Stonedale]... and additional [staff] training.

– Bupa

They added that Stonedale now “meets all CQC standards.”

An examination of the CQC website shows that some information is incomplete: inspection reports about homes that have since changed owners are removed from the site to be replaced with a single ‘tick’ for successful registration, even when concerns remain.

Undercover filming in Holmleigh Nursing Home reveals poor care after past reports were removed in this way.

One elderly woman waits 15 minutes before staff take her to the toilet, while staff are busy or chatting. Staff are seen using unsafe lifting practices. And residents are left in wheelchairs for long periods of time, despite a sign in reception says, “Wheelchairs are for transportation only. Do not leave residents sat in wheelchairs due to increased risk of breakdown of skin.”

Responding to the undercover footage Rosewood Care Services gave this statement:

We do take these matters very seriously and will be investigating these allegations.

Holmleigh Nursing Home was acquired earlier this year. Whilst we were aware of poor practices; we were unable to determine the level of work required to correct Holmleigh operationally

– Rosewood Care Services and Holmleigh

They said they would be closing the home by the end of the year.

Exposure talks to two women whose mothers suffered in similar ways to each other almost a year apart. Alison Armstrong’s mother was sent to hospital with kidney failure, where they found she also had a broken hip which the home had not identified after a series of falls.

Although Alison phoned the CQC to try to report her concerns about the home, the regulator said it did not investigate individual single complaints. It did nothing until another woman, Sue Clawson made a complaint about the treatment of her mother at the same home.

Exposure examines whether the regulator does enough to follow up on homes it knows to have serious problems. It is often several months before the regulator goes in to inspect. From a sample of services about which the CQC had major concerns, one quarter of homes could not be traced because of the removal of information from the website.

Of the rest:

  • The CQC had still not inspected almost two thirds within three months
  • It took 6 months or more to inspect two fifths of these services
  • it took 12 months or more to inspect one in ten of those services

The CQC says following up is not necessarily all about inspections - there are various ways to ensure compliance, but a former senior investigator, Heather Wood, says “If you identify major concerns, what’s the point unless you’re going to go and follow them up?... You need really need an unannounced visit to be sure.”

Responding, the Care Quality Commission told Exposure:

“Assurance that a provider is meeting standards is not only based on inspections and it is misleading to suggest the lack of an inspection means a lack of a focus on our part.”

After finding a major concern, they “work with the provider” to ensure there is a plan to achieve compliance, and follow up with progress reports, “liaising with NHS and local authorit[ies]… when appropriate.”

The time to inspect homes depends on their progress in achieving compliance and the severity of concern. “If we thought people were in danger we would act more urgently.”

They say inspections have led to “improvements in thousands of care homes.”

You can watch the programme tonight on ITV1 at 10.35pm.

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