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Care UK denies responsibility for CQC safeguarding concerns during its tenure at Birchwood home

Newbury care home has been placed in special measures

Chris Ord


01635 886639

Suspected abuse at Newbury care home was not reported

A CARE provider has defended its time in charge of Birchwood Care Home in Newbury, which has since become the focus of safeguarding concerns.

Care UK had been responsible for the facility in Birchwood Road prior to June 2017 when it was then taken over by West Berkshire Council.

Four months later inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) visited the home and found a number of failings, including instances of potential abuse which were not reported to the CQC.

Inspectors rated the facility ‘inadequate’ and placed it in special measures.

West Berkshire Council has claimed it was not aware of safeguarding concerns before taking over the home in June and at a meeting last month suggestions were made by councillors and officers that the standard of care had dropped below an acceptable standard before the council took control.

However, despite the home being rated as ‘requires improvement’ by the CQC when under its control, Care UK has denied there were major safeguarding concerns at the facility.

A Care UK spokesperson said: “When the CQC carried out a full inspection of the home in February 2017, they reported that they ‘observed good caring practice by the staff.

“People and relatives of people using the service said they were happy with the support and care provided.

“All people spoken with said they thought they were treated with respect and staff preserved their dignity at all times.”

Care UK also says its own governance team visited Birchwood in April 2017 and the resulting report showed that ‘the home manager had a comprehensive training programme in place and the majority of staff had received the training and support needed to deliver a high standard of care’. 

They added: “We ceased to be responsible for this home on June 1, 2017.

“When we left, the team were following our standard procedures that are used in all our homes and care plans for residents were up-to-date.”

Regional director at Care UK Daniel Turner said: “Care UK runs over 100 care homes across England and Scotland – around 78 per cent of these are rated as good or outstanding.

“I would like to reassure people that we pride ourselves on high- quality care, and the inadequate rating delivered to the West Berkshire-run Birchwood home cannot be a reflection of our involvement in the home.”

During the autumn 2017 inspection, which occurred after Care UK had handed over full control of the facility, inspectors found instances of potential abuse during visits in September and October, including one resident being force-fed medication and another receiving an unexplained fracture to their arm – neither of which were reported to the CQC.

At one point, inspectors had to intervene to stop a resident accessing an unattended and unlocked medicine trolley.

It had been previously reported that council care chiefs had said they were not involved in any capacity with the inspections last autumn and were therefore not aware of the contents of the ‘inadequate’ report until it was published.

However, it is now clear care bosses were referring to the previous CQC inspection in February 2017.

Since the home was placed in special measures, West Berkshire Council has begun introducing a raft of improvements, including the introduction of new training programmes while also working to reduce the home’s reliance on agency staff.

West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Joanne Bassett said: “When the council took over Birchwood in June 2017 it had already been judged by the Care Quality Commission as ‘requires improvement’ in April 2017.

“We were aware of the areas of concern that emerged in the subsequent inspection and had already implemented a clear action plan to ensure that these areas are addressed. 

“Our priority now is to continue to work hard towards ensuring that Birchwood is brought up to same standard enjoyed by residents in our other care homes which have all been rated ‘good’.”

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