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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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'Culture of bullying' at north Cumbria care home

Plastic syringes left to dry on a rusty radiator, two staff members who had not been police checked and a “culture of bullying” have all been highlighted at a care home.

Meadow Bank, Curthwaite, care home photo
Meadow Bank

Inspectors have published a damning report into Meadow Bank Nursing Home in Curthwaite, near Carlisle, after an unannounced visit.

National watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) ruled that the home had failed all eight of the standards it was inspected on.

It deemed the situation so poor in two areas that it has taken enforcement action and called on the provider to make immediate changes.

Home provider and manager Linda Whalley told the News & Star she understood the home had been given a poor report, but reassured residents and relatives she has already begun to make changes.

The inspection was carried out on November 21 but only published yesterday.

Cleanliness and infection control was one area in which enforcement action has been taken. The report states: “We observed several plastic syringes used to give people oral medication left drying and exposed on top of a rusty radiator.

“The one functioning bathroom for 19 people in the home, plus other people coming in for day care, had no window ventilation, nor did the shower room. The bathroom was not tiled nor had any other wall covering; these walls were rough and had been painted.

“There was a bathroom cupboard with a number of shower and bath gels and a plastic cup that contained both a toothbrush and a razor, which suggested that people were sharing toiletries. Generally this bathroom was not a pleasant room in which to take a bath.”

The second standard where inspectors ordered urgent action was in assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision. “We were told that annual legionella checks were not being done and we saw that fire risk assessments were not being carried out,” they wrote. “During the inspection we saw a number of areas where the quality of provision was poor.”

Other areas of concern included staffing levels and staff training.

The report says: “We found that the appropriate checks were not always taking place. For example, we found that a new staff member had been employed and worked on a night shift without the proper checks being carried out.

“One of these checks was to see whether the person had a police record that would prevent them from working with vulnerable people.”

It continues: “We also found that another person providing services to the provider and working in the home had not had the appropriate checks, including the police check.”

Support for staff was also criticised, as it emerged that one vulnerable member of staff had been bullied to such an extent it had resulted in a safeguarding meeting.

“We were told by some staff that the home tolerated a culture of bullying,” the report says. “We identified that staff who were known to use bullying tactics towards other staff had not been appropriately supervised or reprimanded by the home’s disciplinary procedures. We had been informed by social services that one such incident had resulted in the safeguarding meeting of a vulnerable staff member. When we looked at staff files for the perpetrator we did not see any supervision for inappropriate behaviour and there were no details of this incident on file.”

The report also highlights a lounge which can only seat 10 of the 19 residents – not including the day care visitors; issues with the heating system which led to one resident being heard to call out “I’m cold”; and inadequate monitoring of food and fluid intake for those people with a high risk of malnutrition.

However, residents praised the staff for the care they received and the CQC report did identify two areas of improvement: the appointment of an activity co-ordinator, and the services of a self-employed handyman for 15 to 20 hours. Mrs Whalley said: “I have already started to put things in place to remedy many of the issues raised, so hopefully we will have a good report next time.”

She added that the care given by staff had been praised by residents and she continued to support her employees. “And they support me,” Mrs Whalley added.

Malcolm Bower-Brown, CQC’s regional director for the north, said: “We were extremely disappointed to find these shortfalls against national standards at Meadow Bank Nursing Home and have warned the provider that immediate improvements must be made.

“We continue to monitor the situation carefully and we will inspect again in the near future to ensure residents are being given the service they are entitled to expect.”

He added: “If we find the home has not made the required improvements, we will consider the need for further regulatory action to ensure that residents receive the service they are entitled to expect.”

This is the latest care home in north and west Cumbria to come under fire from the CQC.

Last year we revealed that nine homes in the region had been found by the watchdog to be failing on at least one basic standard.

In a special investigation, the News & Star highlighted concerns over malnourished, unwashed and dehydrated residents and unclean and poorly-staffed homes. MPs, social care experts and health bosses united in their call for immediate action, admitting that adult social care was a “ticking timebomb” which needed urgent attention.

While many of those have since improved, others such as Beacon Edge, in Penrith, have since emerged with their own shocking tales.

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