Families say closing Northern Ireland's worst nursing home put lives at risk

Valley Nursing Home in Clogher in Co Tyrone was branded the worst care home in Northern Ireland.

It was forced to close in January 2021 with 53 residents transferred to other facilities. At that time both residents and families told UTV they didn't want the closure to go ahead.

It has now been confirmed that soon after the home closed, 14 residents died.

A member of staff who worked at Valley Nursing Home has broken her silence because she says those that worked there believe the care home should never have been shut and lives were put at risk.

"It had a major impact on the residents’ life and with any decision to move a resident, key principles we believe weren't taken into account,” she said.

“Choice. Dignity and Respect. Within the staffing group we do feel that it has led to the deaths of some of the residents that were transferred.

“The residents were so vulnerable. Some of them maybe end of life. A change in environment. The trauma and stress of transferring them. I can only imagine how it affected them.”

The Health Minister confirmed the deaths but Robin Swann says those who died all had pre-existing conditions and there is no evidence that the deaths are connected to their transfer to other homes.

Following an inspection in October 2020 the health watchdog the RQIA identified what it described as serious concerns in relation to the safety and effectiveness of resident care and it was ordered to close.

An RQIA spokesperson said: “During an inspection of Valley Nursing Home in Clogher, in October 2020, RQIA identified a number of serious concerns in relation to the safety and effectiveness of resident care.

"As a result of these concerns, RQIA commenced enforcement action to cancel the registration of the registered provider.

“RQIA worked closely with the HSC Trusts and the Strategic Planning and Performance Group (then Health and Social Care Board) to ensure a managed process to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all those receiving care in the home both during and following the enforcement process.

"The management of residents’ discharge from the home is a matter for the local HSC Trust who commissioned the care on behalf of that resident.

“RQIA does not have access to nor hold individual personal information for residents of care homes, and decisions around individual care plans, discharge and securing suitable alternative accommodation for individuals are a matter for the relevant HSC Trust - RQIA are not directly involved in those personal decisions and arrangements.

“RQIA is very mindful of the impact the closure of a care home can have on the residents who live there and do not take this action unless absolutely necessary to ensure their safety. The health and wellbeing of all residents is of paramount importance to RQIA.”

Gerry Cullen’s brother Donal was a resident of Valley Nursing Home for 8 years.

“I don't believe that any care home is perfect,” he said.

“But I do not accept that there was abuse or neglect or denial of dignity or human rights in this home. My brother was a resident for 8 years & I have absolutely no complaint about his care.

“An independent review would mean we will get the truth as to what happened at this home but I know the truth about what happened here will not undue the pain and hurt caused to this care home community.

"There was nights I came into visit my brother and I found nurses sitting crying. “

The staff member says she’s been left “Traumatised" and that, "the staffing group went through a horrific ordeal.

“We were also dealing with a global pandemic and the stress and anxiety of residents and family. Also the media backlash from being called the worst care home in NI.

"Staff have come out of the profession because of this as a result of this.

“It was a very stressful ordeal and it has meant myself and others members of the staffing group have stepped away from care and would not want to go back into providing care not because we don't have a compassionate need to do it but the scrutiny - the unjust and unfair way staff were treated.”

Last night Fermanagh and Omagh District council voted to:

  • Write back to RQIA, asking it to confirm that it stands over its closure decision and accepts the responsibility of the outcomes that flowed from this decision;

  • Ask the Coroner to express an opinion on the RQIA's decision and whether this contributed to fatalities; and

  • Ask the Minister of Health to commission an Independent Review as to how the closure proceeded and to ascertain how many deaths were attributable to the RQIA's closure decision.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “It is always regrettable where action has to be taken to close a care home due to the registered provider failing to maintain the care standards required to ensure the safety and well-being of its residents.

“The Department fully appreciates the upset and stress this caused the families and former residents of the Valley Nursing Home. The response to the RQIA inspection was in the best interests of the residents.

“A review of the lessons learned was conducted, led by the HSC Board (at the time), with Regional Care Homes Business Continuity Plan members including RQIA.”

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