28th June 2017

Poor practice in some care homes

There have been many major recent events for the country, relayed in our news week by week. However, some recent events will be important to all in the care industry: prosecutions in relation to Atlas care homes in Devon, poor practice in some BUPA care homes for people with dementia, and unsatisfactory care in a care home in Aberdeen, whose future is uncertain.

Atlas Care Homes

The BBC announced, after reporting restrictions were lifted, that 13 convictions have taken place over this chain of care homes in Devon. Managers, Directors and staff were among those convicted. Residents had suffered through being confined in bare rooms for lengthy periods, sometimes overnight. The practices were said by the prosecutor to be "...organised and systemic abuse of people with learning disabilities - vulnerable members of society who were residents in homes that were meant to care for them." In 2012, after these trials, the Care Quality Commission closed all 15 care homes operated by the organisation.

A particularly disturbing feature was that one resident had been transferred here, after his previous care home was closed down: Winterbourne View. That service had also been the subject of undercover revelations of abusive practices.

BUPA dementia care

The Dispatches program on Channel 4 has shown undercover videos of care for people with dementia. The Daily Mail described the videos as showing shocking ‘institutional abuse and neglect’, including giving residents used incontinence pads and forcing them to have bed baths at 3.30am. Other practices to be seen were abusive language and behaviour, and resident appearing extremely distressed and upset. A medicine cabinet was seen to be left open unaccompanied, with full access to its contents, and in another situation a nurse failed to carry out observations, advising care staff over the phone to carry out a potentially painful procedure.

The Care Quality Commission has condemned the practices, and threatened future prosecution if there is no improvement in the standard of care. BUPA stated it has taken action on the specific incidents reported.

Kingsmead Nursing Home

Scotland too has had its scandals, most recently Kingsmead Nursing Home in Aberdeen has had its management, staff and nursing teams replaced when the Care Inspectorate identified unsatisfactory care being provided. The home has had repeated complaints about the quality of healthcare, and its future is now being considered.

Conclusion

These are distressing episodes to read and write about, but clearly much more distressing and damaging for the people subject to these practices.

It appears something isn't right in our industry: these cannot be said to be isolated incidents. The Chief Executives of the Challenging Behaviour Institute and of Mencap jointly stated, in comment on the Atlas care homes outcome: "... the trials have brought the unacceptable attitudes and lack of respect for people with a learning disability that exists in society into sharp focus. This environment, which enables commissioners to spend thousands of pounds per week of public money on the wrong type of services with no accountability, must change.”

I think there is a measure of group responsibility: staff witnessing poor practice should be enabled to speak out; commissioners of services need to monitor the quality of care more closely, there should be more local and open neighbourhood care, and perhaps we need fresh approaches to how we inspect care homes and services.

Major changes seem to be needed, and it is all our responsibility not just to challenge poor care, but to advocate where we can for structural change which will minimise the chances of situations like these recurring.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Tony Clarke

Scottish Care Inspectorate Specialist

Tony began care work as a care assistant in care of the elderly here in Scotland in the 1970s. He very much enjoyed promoting activities, interests and good basic care. After a gap to gain a social work qualification, he worked in management of care services, latterly as a peripatetic manager which gave him experience of a wide range of services.

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