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Council-run care home requires improvement

Birchwood steps up from previous CQC ‘inadequate’ rating, but work is ongoing

Council-run care home requires improvement

IMPROVEMENTS are being made at a West Berkshire Council-run care home – but a number of safety issues still remain.

Birchwood Care Home in Newbury has been rated as requiring improvement by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following an unannounced inspection between May 31 and June 4.

All five inspection categories – is the service safe, effective, caring, responsive, and well-led – were rated as requiring improvement.

The ‘requires improvement’ rating is the highest that a care provider can achieve following an inadequate rating. 

Birchwood was rated as inadequate and placed in special measures in December last year, when inspectors found that residents “were not safeguarded from abuse” and “not kept safe”.

West Berkshire Council took over the running of the 60-bed care home from Care UK in June 2017 and claimed it was unaware of the safeguarding concerns.

The latest inspection, carried out to establish if improvements to meet legal requirements had been met, found that the service was not always safe and recruitment procedures did not ensure staff were safe to work with people.

Eight of nine inspected staff files did not have proof of identity and gaps in employment were not verified or checked, including reasons for employment termination.

The passport of one staff member expired almost four years ago, but was still used as identification.

Five staff did not have a dated Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS), which checks for criminal convictions and four staff were not DBS checked.

Inspectors said that staff had a comprehensive understanding of what was abuse, and that it was reported appropriately.

They also said staff had developed systems and processes to reduce the risk of abuse.

The council said that while the report flagged some issues, there were a number of positive comments reflecting the improvements already in place. 

These included relatives saying that they had seen a “vast improvement” since the council had taken over the home and that “this place has seen some difficult times, but they (the council) are really picking things up”.

The “openness and transparency” of the improved complaints procedure was acknowledged by a relative as an illustration of the “drive to achieving change”.

The council had asked for some statements which it felt were factually incorrect to be amended, and said it was disappointed by the CQC’s refusal to take any of these corrections on board in the final report.

West Berkshire Council executive member for adult social care Graham Bridgman (Con, Mortimer) said: “We knew that this would be the best rating that we would get because of the CQC policy that meant we could not jump more than one grade, but we take on board all of the issues raised.  

“Having said this, the inspection was in May and we have never said that this was our finished product – when I visited Birchwood last month I found the manager and staff enthusiastic about the care they were providing and a great deal of work being undertaken to further improve the facilities for residents. 

“We are already seeing positive feedback from residents, relatives and staff and, while there are always lessons to be learned, it is our firm intention to make changes that are sustainable.

“This may take a little longer than both we and the CQC would like, but it is vital that we work towards long-term improvement.”

The home was not rated as dementia-friendly when it was inspected last year.

However, the council has commissioned a dementia architect to make it more appropriate to people with the condition.

The care home, in Birchwood Road, is one of four managed by the local authority.

The other three – Notrees Care Home in Kintbury, Walnut Close Care Home in Thatcham and Willows Edge Care Home in Newbury – are all rated as good by the CQC.

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