A care home in Hadleigh which was forced to close before Christmas has been labelled ‘shocking’.
Run by Lalitha Samuel, Friars Hall Nursing Home provided accommodation for up to 54 people requiring nursing or personal care including elderly people with dementia and physical disabilities.
However, it closed suddenly on December 23, with all 39 residents having to be found new homes.
Inspectors, the Care Quality Commission, rated the home as inadequate in all five key categories when they visited over five dates in just over a month in November and December last year, with South Suffolk MP describing the findings as ‘shocking’, adding that he will now urge ministers to take action.
Friars Hall was already in special measures, after an ‘inadequate’ rating following the previous inspection carried out in August.
At that time several breaches of legal requirements were identified.
In the report it was said there was poor management and leadership and no clinical oversight of the service which had led to people receiving poor care and not being adequately protected from risk to their health and welfare.
If not closed straight away, services in special measures are given six months to improve.
Following the inspection in August an urgent action letter was sent to the provider and in reply an action plan was returned the following day.
However another inspection was carried out only three months later, prompted in part by notification of an incident following which a person died. This incident is subject to a criminal investigation.
The report states that information shared with CQC about the incident indicated potential concerns about the management of risk from falls and moving and handling.
The report continued: “We also received information from the local authority and a whistle blower which related to poor staffing levels, staff training, poor care, poor leadership and governance.”
After the inspections on November 16, 17 and 21, inspectors found no improvements had been made to the overall quality of the service.
The report added: “Management and clinical oversight was failing, there was not enough trained, skilled and experienced staff which resulted in a continued poor quality of service which placed people at potential risk.
“There were continued breaches of the Health and Social Care Act 2008. We took immediate enforcement action to restrict admissions and increase nursing staff.
“We revisited on November 30 to see if the enforcement action taken had made an effect. We found that even though the provider had increased the amount of nurses on each shift the clinical oversight, quality of the service and delivery of care to people remained poor.
“When we returned again on December 19 we found that more permanent staff had left or had given their notice.”
The service relied heavily on temporary staff with basic training with some having difficulties with the English language.
“People’s dignity, privacy and independence was not always respected,” read the report. “The service was not working within the principles of the Mental Capacity Act and in some cases people were presumed to not have capacity when they in fact had.
“Therefore choice, preference and consent was also not respected and people were not safeguarded from improper treatment.”
These concerns were raised with the local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Group, with commissioners deciding to find alternative care providers for some people.
The registered provider informed the CQC they did not know what they could do to improve and made a decision to close the service entirely on December 23.
MP James Cartlidge said the CQC’s report was “absolutely shocking”.
“It is not appropriate to comment on the live criminal investigation into a death in the care home, even though the very fact that is taking place compounds the impression of a care home that had reached crisis point.
“We have the consolation that, as I understand, all occupants have been placed by Suffolk County Council elsewhere and I hope it reassures the public on one level that where such poor care exists, there is a robust inspectorate capable of exposing the reality faced by patients and holding providers to account.
“Nevertheless, this confirms what I think we all already knew that social care is facing huge challenges that show no sign of abating. Whilst Friars Hall is by no means reflective of all care homes in Suffolk, the majority of which are rated as ‘good’, I know from debates in Parliament that issues around the care sector are nationwide.
“It is striking that staff shortages seemed a key factor at Friars Hall and this is something we know is a massive problem across the country, with a long-standing model of relatively poorly paid care staff struggling ever more with rising demand in an aging society, undermined by a ‘revolving’ door of inexperienced staff.
“I will be writing to Ministers immediately to ensure they are fully aware of this case and above all we need to ensure that lessons are learned from this report to avoid repetition in future.”
The Free Press was unable to reach Mrs Samuel for comment.