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INADEQUATE: Care home placed in special measures

INADEQUATE: Care home placed in special measures

The ‘inadequate’ rating means the home will be placed in special measures and kept under review by the CQC, Image: LDRS

A care home that was failing to protect its residents from potential harm or abuse has been placed in special measures.

Smithy Bridge Court, in Littleborough, provides care for up to 51 people with complex care and mental health needs, including dementia.

But it has been rated as ‘inadequate’ by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following an inspection of the new-build facility in Barke Street.

This is the lowest grading a care home can receive and if ‘significant improvements’ are not made within six months it could potentially be closed down.

The inspection was prompted in part due to concerns raised over staffing levels, management of medicines and safeguarding.

During the visit officials noted residents and families ‘spoke highly’ of care staff, who were said to be kind, reassuring and respectful of people’s dignity.

But while there was no evidence anyone had been hurt, a lack of ‘robust’ systems and effective management meant they were not safe and were ‘at risk of avoidable harm’.

The CQC report reads: “People were not effectively safeguarded from the risk of abuse. We noted there had been several safeguarding concerns where an incident had occurred between different people living at the service with the impact and severity of these allegations varying from minor altercations to more serious incidents.”

Staffing was a major area of serious concern, with inspectors reporting there were ‘not always enough staff to meet the needs of people living at the home’.

On one day,  numbers were so low that new recruits who should have been shadowing more experienced colleagues had to fill in to cover shortfalls.

One care worker told officials: “I was thrown straight in. I was supposed to be shadowing but had to get straight on with it.”

Recruitment practices were found to be wanting and the CQC could not be certain the home had taken ‘adequate steps to ensure the staff they employed were suitable’.

Moreover, once taken on, not all staff completed their mandatory training in key areas such as safeguarding and infection prevention.

Staffing issues led to issues with cleanliness, as cleaning staff sometimes had to cover other roles, such as helping out in the kitchen.

The inspection report states: “The service was not clean. We found that some communal areas, bathrooms and clinical areas were stained or dirty.”

And while a deep clean by an outside company was arranged, officials found ‘limited improvements’.

“For example, one bathroom had not been cleaned since our visit two days before and the same stains were in place,” officials noted.

According to the report staff also failed to constistenly wear personal protective equipment (PPE) in line with the government guidance, while people’s medicines were not safely managed, stored or administered.

Some members of staff told officials they had been asked to give people their medicine despite not being trained or competent to perform the task.

The care home, run by St Augustine Ltd, was found to be in breach of three care regulations.

The ‘inadequate’ rating means the home will be placed in special measures and kept under review by the CQC.

If it fails to make signficiant improvements within six months the watchdog will ‘begin the process of preventing the provider from operating this service’.

This will usually lead to cancellation of their registration or to varying the conditions of registration.

A spokesperson for Smithy Bridge Court has responded to the report.

They said: “We are sorry our service did not meet our high quality standards.

“We will take on board all the inspection findings and have developed a comprehensive action plan to address each matter raised as quickly as possible.

“While there were some positive findings in the report with families speaking highly of our care staff and of positive experiences in contacting and visiting our service, we recognise the need to improve staff recruitment and our quality assurance procedures. We will work extremely hard over the next weeks and months to do so.”


Words: Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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