Suffolk: Eleven care homes have contract suspended due to “concerns”

ELEVEN care homes in Suffolk have had their contracts with the county council suspended because of concerns with the services they provide, the EADT can reveal today.

More than 160 vulnerable residents are currently in council-funded placements with the suspended providers, according to a new report.

No details about the nature of the concerns have been released, or which care homes are affected. In each case the contract suspension can be lifted if measures are taken to address the issues.

Last night, council officials said the figures showed the authority had “robust” safeguarding procedures in place, which demanded the highest standards in care homes.

The details are due to be discussed by the county council’s scrutiny committee on Wednesday.

A further two homes, where 12 government-funded customers reside, have Care Quality Commission enforcement notices in place.

The report states that an increasing number of “serious concerns” had been identified either through quality monitoring or safeguarding measures.

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Last week, a Suffolk care worker who dragged a 45-year-old man with learning difficulties more than 20ft across a room by his ankles, was handed a six month suspended jail sentence. Toni-Marie Rolfe was employed in Worlingworth by Affinity Trust, which alerted the safeguarding authorities who then called police in to investigate.

Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for adult and community services, Colin Noble, said extreme cases of this kind were “rare” but he added that the authority took all complaints seriously, which was illustrated in the report.

“To me, every single concern is serious, and it is our priority to make sure that we have the capacity to monitor and understand every issue that arises so we can ensure all of our customers are receiving the best possible care,” he said.

“I hope that what this report will show to the (scrutiny) committee, is that we are achieving that aim by having a really good, robust system in place, which we are continually striving to improve.”

Adult and community services (ACS) has about 1,000 contracts in place for support services in Suffolk, including 160 care homes for older people, 66 for younger adults and 48 home-care agencies.

As well as providing 527 beds in its own 16 cares homes, the county council currently purchases around 2,235 of the 6,216 care places available for older people in Suffolk, and 66% of residential care places offered for younger adults. There are 88 homes housing 10 or more county-funded residents.

The legal responsibilities for regulation and enforcement against minimum national standards rests with the independent Care Quality Commission (CQC), but ACS can suspend accreditation – or a home’s licence to operate – until identified problems have been rectified. Suspension means the county council will not make new placements in a “suspended” home until the identified problems have been dealt with.

This can be anything from health and safety issues to poor recruitment practices, high levels of staff turnover, failure to adhere to policies or poor record-keeping.

In March, Orme House Residential Care Home, in Lowestoft was closed down and its 15 elderly residents moved to other homes after an inspection by environmental health officers from Waveney District Council, because of concerns over the state of residents’ rooms. The investigation concerning Orme House is still ongoing.

ACS interim service director for access and partnerships, Cathy Craig, said care quality officers looked into all concerns raised by residents, relatives or staff.

“If there are a number of issues or the service does not improve quickly, the county council will suspend its contract with the care provider and work with them to ensure the appropriate steps are taken,” she added. “Only once satisfied that the issues in question have been rectified is the contract activated again.”

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