Today The Gazette reveals how dozens of care homes across the Fylde coast are failing to meet basic standards, according to inspections by care watchdog the CQC.
Here, reporters ALEX ROSS and EMMA HARRIS examines two recent cases where families have been left devastated by the standards of care their relatives have received – and reveals what town hall bosses intend to do about the issues.
CASE STUDY 1
A heartbroken family have spoken of their despair after an elderly relative was injured in her care home shortly before she died.
Police arrested a member of staff at Le Grand care home, in Freckleton, in August 2012 following allegations from another staff member that 88-year-old Marie Lowe had been assaulted.
The man was never charged following his arrest on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. He no longer works at the Preston Old Road home.
Another member of staff reported the colleague for picking Mrs Lowe up under both arms, swinging her roughly on to her bed then placing her in a wheelchair and pushing her at speed.
Mrs Lowe had only been at the home for three months when she was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital because of the injuries. She died from septicaemia three days later.
A post mortem found a number of injuries to Mrs Lowe’s body.
A report stated: “There was a sutured lacerated wound to the left leg and marked bruising to the right shin with skin loss consistent with the circumstances provided that this lady had been involved in an incident and as a result sustained injuries to her legs including a laceration to her leg.
“In addition to this there were also five bruises to the left arm consistent with gripping.
“This injury and the injuries to the legs were consistent with the circumstances provided to me that this lady had been roughly handled and involved in an incident with the wheelchair.”
The report goes on to say the wounds were not infected and did not “contribute to death to any great extent.”
Mr Lowe’s family, including Sylvia Lowe, her daughter-in-law, have only come forward with the results of the post mortem examination after getting over the ordeal of her sister’s death in April and having to look after her husband with multiple sclerosis.
Mrs Lowe, 60, of Ribblesdale Close, Kirkham, said: “There’s nothing I can do about this now.
“The care home had a duty of care and the staff should have been fully trained.
“This sort of thing pushes it under the carpet because I don’t think old people are looked after with the respect the should have.
“At the end of the day, this didn’t kill her but it should never have happened and she should not have been admitted to hospital.”
The Care Quality Commission and police were involved in the investigation but decided not to take the incident further.
Mrs Lowe, a full-time carer of her husband, Trevor, added: “This shouldn’t happen. The home need to make sure staff who are on duty are qualified.
“It’s like me throwing my grandson around when he doesn’t behave, but she was 88 and I want people to know we did try.”
Det Con Matt Normanton, of Lancashire Police, dealt with the investigation.
He said: “There was a police investigation into it and someone was arrested.
“This case was put to the Crown Prosecution Service and they decided there was no action to be taken.”
Le Grand Care Home confirmed a member of staff’s employment had been terminated but declined to comment further.
The care home passed all standards set by the CQC during its last inspection in December 2012.
CASE STUDY 2
A “dirty” room, “filthy” toilet facilities and a general lack of care.
Just some of the concerns of one mother and daughter, whose friend Andrew Clark is a resident at the Tudor Manor Care Home, Clifton Drive, South Shore.
The pair, who say they have ended up cleaning Mr Clark’s room themselves, have contacted the CQC and the council with concerns over carers not meeting the standards they would expect at the home.
Zoe Broadbent and her mum Mary say they have complained to management because they do not feel the care their friend is getting is good enough, but say so far nothing has been done.
Mrs Broadbent said: “My daughter said she literally had to clean Andy’s room herself.
“He had to be rushed to hospital a few weeks ago, he was really poorly. We had to ask why he had not been taken to hospital earlier.
“Then last week, when Zoe went to visit, in Andy’s room there was dried blood left on the wall and down the side of the bed.
“He has lost so much weight. We feel it’s a disgrace.”
Mr Broadbent added she had witnessed carers failing to sterilise urinal bottles and emptying Mr Clark’s catheter down a drain.
Zoe got to know Mr Clark when she worked at the RSPCA shop and he was a regular customer, before his health deteriorated.
They became good friends and now she and her mum regularly take Mr Clark out for dinner, to their home for special occasions like Christmas, or out on day trips.
She said: “Andy is part of our family now. He is in an acute confusional state, so we try to look out for him.
“But we have serious concerns over the care he is receiving.
“The bathroom is dirty and we are worried about the risk of infection and his urinal bottle is filthy. I was so appalled I took some photos.
“I can’t believe the state of the place. We’ve been umpteen times to the office to talk about our concerns, we just want something to get done.
“Andy’s 82 and used to be in the Navy, he’s a lovely man and this is how he might spend his final days.”
A CQC inspection of the home in April found it was meeting all standards in all areas and its report remarked “people were treated with respect and dignity.”
A spokesman for the home said: “The health, safety and well-being of all those we support are our top priorities and we work hard to deliver the highest standard of care.
“In this case we have fallen short of our own standards and sincerely apologise to the resident and their friends. As soon as these concerns came to the management team’s attention, we acted immediately to rectify the situation.
“Further improvements to the home’s environment is planned, and we will ensure these issues are monitored.”
WHAT THE COUNCILS HAVE TO SAY
Blackpool and Lancashire County councils say making sure vulnerable adults are well cared for is a “big priority”.
County Hall, which commissions care homes in Fylde and Wyre, has set up its own Radar group with the aim of identifying problems in care homes before CQC inspections.
The group looks at information from health organisations and the authority and reviews complaints to build up a picture of the issues.
Terry Mears, head of commissioning for Central Lancashire Adult Services, said: “We approach the providers and see what we can support to get at things quickly before they deteriorate.
“The CQC can take action by making notices of improvement or by revoking licenses but our role is to get in much earlier when there’s a cause for concern.”
The council has started two campaigns to scrutinise care homes.
Is it Good Enough for My Loved One? aims to keep people safe in their care homes and looks into standards to give relatives peace of mind that they will be putting their loved one somewhere safe.
The second campaign – A Good Life for All – looks at values of care.
Mr Mears added: “The issues we see may be around the pressure issues and how the homes can be much more aware and sensitive to how they work with residents.
“We are just starting to think about how we introduce peer and mentor support.
“It’s very easy to pick up on things when they don’t work well, but it’s less easy when things do work well and we have to really understand why we get issues in some homes when others seem to thrive.
“A lot of our work is to get homes to connect with community resources so we get a transparent relationship.”
Blackpool Council has contracts with 80 homes.
Coun Kath Rowson, cabinet member for Adult Social Care, said: “Making sure vulnerable adults are well cared for and safe is extremely important and a big priority for this council.
“For that reason we make sure that any care home commissioned by the council meets a set of essential conditions.
“These include both the home and the manager being properly registered, as well as complying with essential national standards for quality and safety.
“These standards include treating adults with respect, providing personalised quality care and maintaining staffing and management at a high standard.
“The council carries out its own monitoring of every care home, separate to that undertaken by the CQC.
“The council’s monitoring keeps the quality of services at each home under constant review so that appropriate support can be given to help them improve.
“Where a home has problems with the quality of their services and improvement is too slow or doesn’t happen, then the council will take action.”