Mon, 15 Jan 2018
WEST Berkshire Council has insisted it was not aware of safeguarding issues at a Newbury care home prior to taking over the service last summer.
In December, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a damning report following an inspection at Birchwood Care Home, which detailed instances of potential abuse, including one resident being force-fed medication and another receiving an unexplained fracture to their arm – neither of which were reported to the CQC.
The 60-bed care home has been placed in special measures and a voluntary embargo on new residents has been in place since the inspection.
Council care chiefs have also put in place a new management team.
When quizzed on the report at a meeting last Tuesday, the council’s head of adult social care said that lessons had been learned and that improvements were already being seen.
Speaking at the meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny management commission, leader of the Liberal Democrats on West Berkshire Council, Lee Dillon (Thatcham North) asked for clarification on when the council became aware of problems at the home.
Head of adult social care Tandra Forster explained that the CQC inspection came while West Berkshire Council was in the process of taking over the home from the contracted provider, Care UK.
She said: “We were not part of the inspection and we would not have had access to details around that until after the inspection was completed and that report was published and in the public domain.”
Ms Forster admitted that the council’s own care quality team had visited the facility previously, but refused to divulge the findings.
“I don’t want to get into the details of what they found during their visits,” she said.
“That would be a separate discussion.”
West Berkshire Council took over the running of the home last year from Care UK following the provider’s decision to reduce the number of beds at the facility.
However, the CQC was prompted to carry out the two-day inspection at the home, which specialises in dementia care, after being tipped off about potential abuse and a number of other safety concerns.
During the visits, on September 29 and October 1, inspectors said they identified “several” breaches of the Health and Social Care Act.
At one point, inspectors had to intervene to stop a resident accessing an unattended and unlocked medicine trolley.
Councillors sought assurances at the meeting that lessons had been learned from the inspection to prevent similar instances in the future.
Mr Dillon said: “It feels a little bit like pot luck.
“The fact that they reduced the facility by 10 beds and that made us look to bring it in house.
“If they hadn’t have done that we wouldn’t have brought it in house or at least not until we had seen the last inspection come through.
“How can we, as a council, work with our care providers to make sure we are on top of this before the inspection reports come up?”
Provider services manager Sue Bird said work was being done to reduce the number of agency staff in social care across the district, while at Birchwood new staff training programmes were being implemented.
She said: “We are already experiencing the improvements.
“We have met with families to share the positive outcomes and they’re sharing back with us and I think that’s a really important gauge.”
She added: “From my perspective I’m really clear about what needs to happen to put this service right.
“The management team are clear about what needs to happen to put this right.
“I think going forward I don’t anticipate we will be in this position again with this home or any other that we run.
“We have a clear vision we know where we’re going and we’ve communicated that with the families.”