A CARE home in Chester has been rated ‘inadequate’ and placed under special measures by the government’s health watchdog after staff raised concerns.
Orchard Manor, a 93-bedroom facility on Acres Lane in Upton, could face closure if its management fails to make improvements within the next six months.
In October last year, former employee and mum-of-three Kaley Sweetman became so concerned that she decided to blow the whistle on standards at the home.
She contacted the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which revealed in its latest report that it had also received correspondence from members of the public relating to the “poor care people were receiving and anxieties regarding people’s safety”.
Miss Sweetman spoke to the Leader about her concerns, after which a further five former staff members wrote to our newsdesk outlining similar issues. All supplied their names and contact details but chose to remain anonymous.
One described the home as a “hell hole” while another said it was “by far one of the worst I’ve worked in”. They raised issues that included insufficient staffing levels at night and inadequate training.
At the time Orchard Manor was rated as ‘requires improvement’ and its managers had devised an action plan pledging they would be fully compliant by October 31, 2016.
However, acting on information it had received, the CQC carried out unannounced inspections – including a night visit – on November 8 and 21 last year, followed by an announced visit on November 23.
It published its report on March 8, rating the service as ‘inadequate’ – the lowest grade possible.
It has emerged that Cheshire West and Chester Council’s safeguarding team and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service have also carried out inspections following the issues raised.
Miss Sweetman told the Leader yesterday: “This has been really hard for me and my family but I still wouldn’t change the fact that I spoke up and raised concerns because I believe anyone who has concerns should speak up without being afraid. This is a sad situation that could, and should, have been avoided.”
Orchard Manor was rated as ‘inadequate’ in the areas of safety, effectiveness, responsiveness and leadership. It was graded as ‘requires improvement’ for care. Overall it is ‘inadequate’.
The CQC report states that although there are enough staff working at the home, the deployment and level of knowledge of some was “not sufficient to meet people’s needs”. There was an over-reliance on agency staff, whose induction sessions were not sufficiently robust.
Health and safety risks were not always identified, care plans did not always record people’s needs and quality assurance systems were not effective.
Food in some cases was described as “horrible” and “abominable”, and inadequate checks on pressure relieving equipment for mattresses meant people were at risk of bed sores.
The report continued: “Fire safety management within the home required reviewing. We saw no evidence of evacuation training for staff to ensure people would be appropriately supported in the event of a fire.”
Inspectors also discovered staff had not received some key training, specifically in relation to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
However, the home was also found to be “clean and free from offensive odours” and it was noted that staff received annual training sessions in areas such as moving and handling, infection control, health and safety, and safeguarding.
The report stated: “The overall rating for this service is ‘inadequate’, and the service is therefore in ‘special measures’. Services in special measures will be kept under review and... will be inspected again within six months.
“If not enough improvement is made within this timeframe...we will take action in line with our enforcement procedures to begin the process of preventing the operator from providing the service.”
In a statement, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s director of commissioning people, Alistair Jeffs, said: “Following a series of inspection visits to Orchard Manor in Chester in 2016, the council is working with partners, including the regulator, the Care Quality Commission and the NHS, to support the management at the facility to deliver safe standards of care to residents.
“We take the care and safety of residents in this borough very seriously. Both residents and their families are closely involved in any decisions regarding changes to the home or their care.”
In a statement, Orchard Manor’s owners, Fordent Properties Ltd, stressed its commitment to high standards of care and said a new care home manager had been appointed since the last inspection.
The company said: “The safety, wellbeing and health of the people we care for is our absolute focus at all times.
“Following the inspection in November 2016, we have worked closely with the Care Quality Commission and local authority to implement a detailed action plan.
“Changes we have made include: appointing a new experienced home manager; completing a review of residents’ care plans; putting a robust quality assurance system in place; and working with external experts to update our food, medicines and fire safety processes.
“We have also reduced our use of agency staff. Following a significant recruitment drive, we have appointed many new permanent carers so that residents are supported by carers they know and trust. All staff have completed our refreshed training programme.
“We are confident these actions are already making a very positive difference.
“In our most recent relatives feedback survey we achieved a 96 per cent satisfaction score. We will continue to work extremely hard to make sure we’re providing the high-quality care residents expect and deserve, and that we pride ourselves on delivering at our sister homes.”