What inspectors said about Suffolk's worst care homes
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Dementia patients having access to knives, people walking round naked and evidence of deadly bacteria in the water supply — these are some of the damning observations found in Suffolk’s worst-rated care homes.
Of the 190 care homes registered in the county which have been inspected by the Care Quality Commission, an encouraging 69% are rated “good” and 13% “outstanding”.
But a further 13% either “require improvement” or are wholly “inadequate”.
These are the six worst-rated care homes in the county, and what inspectors found when they paid a visit.
St George's Care Home, Beccles
When inspectors from the Care Quality Commission visited in June 2021, they found little effort was being made to respect people's dignity.
One man, for example, was allowed to walk down the stairs with his trousers round his ankles, despite being incontinent, while a fellow resident was seen in the lounge without their clothes on.
Relatives of residents said their family members were not being given incontinence pads, and that every time they took them out, they were either soiled, smelled or dressed "very strangely".
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Residents themselves said they were bored: one person told inspectors that they "go and sit outside, have dinner, then go to bed and sleep".
Inspectors also found though staff were "kind" and "caring", there wasn't enough of them, and many were insufficiently trained.
A spokesman for the care home said the current owners, Wellbeing Care, acquired the home in January 2020, just before the pandemic.
He said despite making initial progress the pandemic had set them back — and that St George's would not be accepting new admissions until more was done to improve the facility.
"Wellbeing Care has developed a stringent action plan and will be working closely with Suffolk County Council to ensure significant improvements are made immediately.”
Chilton Meadows Care Home, Stowmarket
Rated "good" in 2019, the recent "inadequate" rating lumped on Chilton Meadows Care Home was a fall from grace.
Inspectors visited in March this year, and found significant risks of malnutrition among residents. One person had lost nearly 20% of their body weight in three months, but nobody was recording their meal intake.
Other risks of harm involved exposed hot radiator pipes and taps reaching scalding temperatures.
Likewise, despite a high number of falls recorded in recent months, vulnerable people were being left to their own devices.
On one occasion inspectors actually intervened because someone had their walking frame the wrong way round.
Managing director for the Bupa-run Chilton Meadows Care Home, Duncan Smith, said management had acted immediately to fix risks and hazards and had brought in additional support for the management team at the home.
“We’re committed to providing quality care, and had a detailed improvement plan already in place at the home,” he added.
Oulton Park Care Centre, Lowestoft
When inspectors visited in June 2021, the home was demoted from “requires improvement” to “inadequate”.
There had been six incidents between the same two people since January, but they were still left together unsupervised for long periods of time.
Wires were also left exposed around a person who was at risk of strangulation, while knives and kettles were easily accessible on the unit for dementia patients.
Workers described staffing levels as “unsafe”, and without an activities manager, residents said they were bored all the time.
A spokeswoman for Barchester Healthcare, which runs the service, said in the six months since the inspection took place a “robust action plan” to address issues had been devised.
“We were glad to see that the report did nevertheless reflect improvements in the management and administration of medicines since the last report, and the quality of the home’s staff in treating residents with kindness and care.
“Staff have worked tirelessly during the pandemic. Their work has meant there have been no cases of Covid-19 among residents since January 2021.”
Highfield House Care Home, Halesworth
The home was deemed to “require improvement” when inspectors last visited, but as of December 2021 was rated “inadequate”.
Inspectors found a number of people were losing weight, and not being given their medicine on time.
Because of staffing shortages and the reliance on agency staff, residents were sometimes waiting half an hour to be taken to the toilet when they needed it.
Relatives, meanwhile, were often not told until the next day when their family member had a fall or accident.
A spokesman for the provider, Castlemeadow Care, said the home had a robust action and improvement plan in place.
He added that recruitment and retention had been “incredibly difficult” but that this was starting to stabilise.
“We look forward to welcoming the CQC back to Highfield House”.
Estherene House Care Home, Lowestoft
Estherene House received a “good” rating in February 2019, but was found to be “inadequate” by May 2021.
The main concerns were that requests to take action in regards to fire safety and food hygiene had not been carried out — despite the risks being identified sometimes years before.
There was also legionella present in the water system. This is a bacterium causing Legionnaires disease, which makes people seriously ill.
The company running the care home was told to take immediate action to fix this in March 2018 — but three years later the problem remained unresolved.
Residents were deemed to be at risk of Covid too, with staff spotted wearing their masks round their chin, and failing to wear gloves when interacting with people.
QH (Rosewood) Limited, responsible for providing the service, did not respond to requests for comment.
Priory Paddocks Nursing Home, Darsham
In December of this year, Priory Paddocks found its “good” rating downgraded to “inadequate”.
The service’s food hygiene rating also remains at one-star.
Inspectors, when they visited, were told the provider was facing such difficulty recruiting new staff they had decided not to admit any new residents until the situation changes – while current care staff had not had a single training session or meeting since the start of the pandemic.
Other concerns involved poor infection control and failure to report incidents of abuse to the local authority.
Inspectors found many taps, baths and showers were not working or running hot, with staff having to transport hot water in buckets and bowls to help people wash.
The care home has been approached for comment.