17th December 2016
By Rashleigh MacFarlane
Hundreds of frail, vulnerable elderly people in Cornwall are living in care homes which meet the same standard of care as St Austell’s Clinton House, recently exposed in a BBC Panorama documentary as “grim and unsafe.”
A survey of official inspection reports, posted online by the Care Quality Commission, reveals that 28 residential and nursing homes in Cornwall are currently described as “needs improvement.”
Clinton House was recently downgraded from “needs improvement” to “inadequate” – but only after the television programme was broadcast. Secret filming revealed several serious safeguarding issues, such as the inappropriate use of morphine to calm a resident. Owners Morleigh Group last week sold Clinton House to a new care provider, but still operate a number of other homes in Cornwall.
Cornwall currently has six homes in the “inadequate” category and only one classed as “outstanding.” The data question the effectiveness of the CQC’s watchdog role, as there is often a fine line between classification as “needs improvement” and “good” – with nothing in between, creating a risk that those headline labels might be misleading. Even the detailed reports provide only a snapshot of conditions inside the homes on the day of the inspection.
Cornwall has 194 care homes which the CQC currently describes as “good” – but many of these are rated as “needs improvement” in some aspects of their service.
Perran Bay - Cornwall's only "outstanding" home
The only care home which is classed as “outstanding” is Perran Bay, Perranporth, run by the Cornwall Old People’s Housing Society, which provides accommodation and personal care – but not nursing – for about 40 residents. None of its residents has more complex needs, such as dementia.
The six care homes currently classed as “inadequate” by the CQC are:
Highermead Care Home, Camelford (Ark Care Services)
Marray House, Saltash (Marray House Care Services)
St Theresa’s Nursing Home, Callington (Morleigh Group)
Collamere Nursing Home, Lostwithiel (Pineacre Ltd)
Elmsleigh Care Home, Par (Morleigh Group)
Clinton House, St Austell (Morleigh Group – recently sold)
Collamere Nursing Home, Lostwithiel - "inadequate"
Clinton House - "inadequate" - but only after being on television.
A further 28 care homes are classed as “needs improvement” and only a detailed examination of each of the CQC’s individual reports sheds any light on whether those homes might move up to the “good” category – or down to the “inadequate” category.
It can often take months for care providers to respond to CQC concerns – leaving “customer” organisations, such as Cornwall Council or Kernow Commissioning Group, with no alternative but to continue placing people there. Only the CQC can cancel a home’s registration.
The issue was raised in Parliament earlier this month when St Austell MP Steve Double questioned the role of the CQC. “Following the revelations in the BBC “Panorama” programme, Clinton House in my constituency is now closed,” said Mr Double. “Three further care homes run by the Morleigh Group have now been rated as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission and two others are under inspection.
“Concerns have been raised about these care homes for many years, and it cannot be acceptable that it took the BBC to provoke the action that was desperately needed. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is now time to urgently review the role of the CQC to ensure that in future concerns raised by residents, families and staff are properly and promptly addressed? “
St Theresa's, Callington - "inadequate"
In reply, David Lidington MP, Leader of the House, on behalf of the Prime Minister, promised to look at how the CQC might improve.
“Older and vulnerable people deserve the highest quality care possible,” he said. “There is no excuse for services that fall short of expectations in the way my hon. Friend has described. The CQC has extensive powers in law to ensure that nobody in the chain of responsibility is immune to legal accountability, and I would expect the CQC to exercise those powers in full in this case. But my hon. Friend has made some criticisms of the CQC and the Government have been looking into ways to improve its processes and increase its efficiency.
“The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), is the Minister responsible for community health and care, and he discussed this very issue with the CQC earlier today.”