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Thursday, 21 August 2014

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Bosses escape criticism despite abuse at north Cumbrian care home

The health watchdog which failed to uncover the prolonged abuse of elderly patients at a nursing home has confirmed that no official criticism has been levelled at its managers.

Care workers photo
From left, Claire Strong, William Bowman, Chevonne Benson

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has publicly spoken in detail about the abuse at Beacon Edge Nursing Home in Penrith for the first time.

The organisation was answering a series of questions after it was revealed inspectors gave the home a glowing report at the time when three care assistants were systematically abusing patients.

It confirmed that no sanctions or criticisms have been levelled at any managers from the Bupa-run home.

The workers involved – William Bowman, 22, of Bowscar, Penrith; Chevonne Benson, 23, of Roman Road, Penrith; and Claire Strong, 21, of Crooklands View, Clifton – have all admitted their guilt and will be sentenced by a judge in October.

Strong’s crimes were to take pictures of three patients in humiliating situations and then share them.

In June last year, as Bowman and Benson were humiliating and attacking the dementia patients in their care – some in their 80s and 90s – CQC inspectors visited the home and concluded it was meeting official standards.

The abuse finally ended last September after a new worker at the home resigned after one shift in disgust, saying she was appalled by the “cruel and disrespectful” treatment being meted out to patients. When told, the home’s manager immediately reported it to the authorities.

Asked how the abuse could go on for so long, the CQC issued the following statement: “What happened at Beacon Edge Specialist Nursing Home was wholly unacceptable – and the defendants are being dealt with through the proper channels.

“Those who run care homes are responsible for providing safe, compassionate and high-quality care. Our role is to set clear expectations, assess how well services are doing, and to take action when necessary.

“Inspection is not the only way to ensure quality and we cannot know what goes on behind closed doors all of the time – this is why we encourage people to contact us if they see or suspect poor care or abusive behaviour taking place so that we can liaise with the relevant bodies and do something about it.

“Once we were made aware of the allegations, CQC inspected straightaway to check whether the home had taken the right steps to keep people safe and whether it was doing all it could to reduce the risk of it happening again.”

She confirmed that an unannounced daytime inspection on June 13 last year – in the midst of the abuse – found the home met all standards.

Inspectors returned to Beacon Edge in November after the abuse was reported in a “responsive inspection”.

Its report at the time acknowledged the allegations of abuse and police investigation, and said the purpose of its visit had been to ensure residents were being cared for properly and that staff knew how to report any concerns.

It found the home had met all standards.

“However,” the spokeswoman said, “we continue to monitor the home closely and will not hesitate to take action should this be necessary to ensure residents receive the service they are entitled to expect.”

Asked what actions CQC took to safeguard patients at Beacon Edge, the spokesman said: “We also liaised closely with the provider, local authority and commissioners to ensure the home had taken the right steps to keep people safe.”

Asked why the public should have confidence in the CQC’s regime, the spokeswoman said: “Our focus is to:

  • Be explicit about our expectations of services making sure these are focused on what matters most to people using services and a sound evidence base;
  • Monitor what is happening, listen to people using services, their families and others and respond when concerns are raised;
  • Carry out rigorous and robust inspections which are person-centred and alert to warning signs;
  • Focus on leadership and culture of services and hold managers and owners to account;
  • Share information clearly so that we can celebrate good practice for others to learn from;
  • Encourage services to improve when that is required and take firm action when necessary."

She added: “We encourage people to contact us if they do see or suspect poor care or abusive behaviour taking place – they can contact us (anonymously if they prefer) by telephone, email or post.

“When concerns were raised about this service, we followed them up.”

Bupa has also defended its handling of the issue, saying that it has “robust whistle-blowing procedures” and it was employees who reported the abuse and allowed the police to intervene. The firm pointed out that its response was praised by the police and that the home is judged to now be providing a safe and stimulating environment for its residents.

Weblink: Read the full response of the Care Quality Commission

Weblink: Read the full response from BUPA

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