A mental health care home in Northamptonshire has been placed into special measures by the healthcare watchdog following concerns around nurse vacancies and the safety of those living at the facility.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that Willowbrook House relied heavily on agency workers to fill staffing gaps and that it continued to admit people with complex needs ‘without the resources to manage their care’.
However, St Matthews Healthcare which owns Willowbrook health has since filed an official complaint with the CQC concerning offensive and derogatory comments made by the inspection team.
Willowbrook House is a specialist mental health care facility in Corby and at the time of inspection in May was supporting 36 people living at the service who had ‘severe, enduring mental illness with complex needs’.
In a report published last week, the CQC rated the home ‘inadequate’ and placed it into special measures, meaning it will now be kept under ‘close review’ by inspectors and will be re-inspected to check if sufficient improvements have been made.
The home was also rated ‘inadequate’ for being safe, effective, responsive and well-led, and was rated as ‘requires improvement’ for being caring.
The unannounced inspection carried out earlier this year had been prompted in part due to concerns the CQC had received around staffing levels and safeguarding.
Among the report findings, the healthcare watchdog said there were ‘not enough staff’ working at the facility and a ‘high number of vacancies for nursing and care staff’.
‘The provider continued to admit people with complex mental and physical health needs without the resources to manage their care or meet their needs,’ the report said.
‘One relative told us they were worried for the safety of their relative, they said, “Other residents are fighting, there are no staff to intervene, there are no regular staff”.’
Inspectors also found the provider used agency nurses ‘every day’.
Staffing rotas showed that for every seven to 10 care agency staff deployed daily, there were zero to two permanent care staff.
And of these agency workers, the CQC found that 39% had provided care for only one or two days, meaning ‘people were being cared for by staff that did not always know them or have the opportunity to provide continuous care’.
The healthcare watchdog concluded that people living at the home ‘weren’t always safe’ and that there ‘weren’t enough staff with the skills, competencies and experience to meet people’s clinical and care needs’.
It also raised concerns that staff ‘did not consistently record people’s clinical observations when people became unwell’.
And it warned that people were ‘at risk of undetected deterioration in their health and delay in medical care’.
Inspectors also found that those living in the home were ‘at risk of not receiving prescribed care or attending health appointments’.
Inspectors found ‘unopened letters regarding people’s health appointments’ and heard from two relatives concerned they had ‘not been kept informed of health appointments’ and that ‘actions prescribed at health appointments had not been implemented’.
Craig Howarth, CQC deputy director of operations in the midlands, said the inspection had revealed ‘significant issues in many areas of the home, including poor leadership’.
He added: ‘Inspectors saw there were significant staffing issues at the home.
‘We found the provider hadn’t employed key staff to provide for the needs of people admitted who required multi-disciplinary care.’
Yet, following the CQC’s decision the parent company of Willow Brook House, St Matthews Healthcare, has submitted a complaint against the CQC concerning elements of the inspection process.
A representative of St Matthews Healthcare told Nursing in Practice that their ‘absolute priority’ was ensuring residents receive a ‘high standard of care’ and noted that they had ‘worked hard’ since the inspection to improve the standard of care.
However, the representative added that: ‘Notwithstanding our commitment to continual improvement, we have separately raised complaints about the conduct of the Inspection Team. We are waiting for the CQC to initiate an investigation.’
In a statement provided to the BBC the representative said that this complaint was ‘about wholly unacceptable comments made by the inspection team. This included the use of offensive and derogatory language when referring to colleagues from an ethnic minority background.’
A representative of the CQC said that the regulator had ‘looked at all the evidence regarding this inspection and were satisfied the report is accurate and should be published in line with usual processes. CQC have a legal obligation to share this information with people, so they are informed about the poor standard of care this service is providing.
‘Following the inspection, St. Matthews Healthcare, submitted a complaint to CQC on 26 June about elements of the inspection process. CQC have requested further information from St. Matthews Healthcare to understand the scope of the complaint. CQC received confirmation on the scope from St. Matthews Healthcare on 10 August so is now able to begin the investigation.’