A day in the life of England’s bad care homes
You may not want to think about it – but it could be where you, or members of your family, spend your twilight years. Want to know what it could be like?
The Telegraph is tracking how a day in the life of some of England’s bad care homes could compare to your day. Follow it below in real-time, with updates throughout the day.
8am: Time to get up or eat breakfast? Perhaps not. Relatives at one care home said they often found their loved ones still stuck in bed by late morning. Staff in Summer Lane Nursing Home in Weston Super Mare admitted to inspectors that sometimes they were still helping people get ready for the day at 4.30pm because they were so short-staffed, despite trying their best to reach everyone.
The home’s operator Country Court Care said there were some managerial issues with the home at the time of the inspection, which had since been resolved, with new, additional members of staff also recruited and an urgent plan put in place to deal with the issues raised.
8.30am: What about a shower? “I get a shower when they have time,” said one resident at High Peak Lodge care home in Lancashire, and at other locations records suggested residents had not showered for months.
Health professionals at St Nicholas Nursing Home in Sheridan, Norfolk, found residents with faecal matter under their nails – staff said they had to use ripped up pieces of towel to wash people because they had run out of flannels. One staff member said to inspectors: “Would you want you relative cared for like this? It’s not very dignified is it?”
Since the inspection, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) took urgent action to stop St Nicholas from providing nursing care and limited its resident numbers to 11 people. The operators of St Nicholas said in repeat visits by the watchdog, the home had shown improvements. “All families are happy for their loved ones to remain at St Nicholas,” a spokeswoman said. High Peak Lodge said it “welcomed” the feedback and stressed that it had adequate numbers of staff on duty, with the CQC commending it for providing “effective and caring support”.
At China Cottage Nursing Home in Doncaster, an agency nurse gave medication to the wrong person.
10am: Fancy a cup of tea? Great. The staff have brought you one, and at most care homes you either drink it alone or they help you drink it, and that’s where it ends.
But at Albany Care Home in Oxford, in inspectors found one resident in bed with half of a cold cup of tea, a stale piece of toast and two biscuits on the other side of the room, out of their reach. “A cup of tea would be nice,” they said.
A spokeswoman for Four Seasons Health Care, which runs the home, said: “We are sorry that Albany care home fell short of the standards we expect all of our homes to provide. We have accepted the CQC’s recommendations and have implemented a comprehensive plan of action…The resident who was still in bed at midday was there entirely out of her own choice and had made clear to staff that she did not want to get up. Tea and other fluids are served regularly.”
11am: You walk past the lounge and the offensive smell stops you in your tracks.
At St Nicholas Care Home, where the CQC has already taken urgent action (see above), one resident told inspectors the smell in the lounge, particularly on hot days, was “overpowering…but I’m afraid I’m getting used to it.”
12pm: Lunch time! Oh, sorry. Not for you – or at least that’s the case at a handful of care homes. You’re pretty hungry and no-one is coming to help – you’ve been waiting for nearly an hour – so you try with your hands. It’s gross, undignified and you can’t even get much. Inspectors saw this happen at several care homes last year, including one incident at Perry Locks Nursing Home in Birmingham.
A spokesman for Perry Locks said: “We are sorry this happened and now have a new home manager and deputy manager, and the issues have been addressed. We reassessed resident’s needs on the unit concerned and, as a result, increased staffing levels, especially to support people at mealtimes.”
1.30pm: Have a look out of the window. Imagine not being able to go out there…
At lots of care homes, staff are happy to take residents outside where they can. But at The Old Rectory in Colchester, a resident told inspectors last year: “We have been stuck in here all summer and can’t get out into the garden; the door is locked because of the dangerous tree branches. I have always loved being outdoors. Summer has passed us by.” At the time of inspection, there was no timetable for finishing the work to make the garden safe.
Paul Mancey, chief executive of Orchard Care Homes, which runs The Old Rectory, said he would personally visit the home to ensure the garden was accessible.
“It is incredibly important to be able to go out into the garden, and it’s really important to me personally that people have the opportunity to go outside. I am going to go and make certain that people do have access to the garden,” he told The Telegraph. A spokeswoman said the care home staff were still awaiting guidance from the council on the tree in the back garden, but pointed out that the front garden was accessible.
2.30pm: You need help getting to the toilet so you’ve rung your call bell. But no-one’s come. How long do you think it could take?
2.45pm: You’re still waiting and it’s 15 minutes later. Incidentally, 15 minutes is the length of time some care workers have to spend with people who need care in their own homes. That means sometimes people have to choose between having a drink, getting clean, or going to the toilet.
2.50pm Back in the care home, it’s been more than 20 minutes. At Sunrise Operations Tettenhall, in Wolverhampton, 14 people raised concerns over the length of time it took for call bells to be responded to. A member of staff said they were also worried about this, and were “shattered” trying to cope with their workloads. One person said they were so desperate to use the toilet that they tried to go by themselves, falling over twice in their bathroom in the last two months.
According to the care watchdog,1 in 5 care homes do not have enough staff to make sure residents get good, safe care.
A spokesman said: “The most important thing to us is the health and wellbeing of the residents we care for. We strive to provide the highest standards of care and take this matter extremely seriously. Following the inspection, we immediately implemented a comprehensive action plan, including a review of staffing levels. We look forward to demonstrating these improvements to the inspectorate. We work tirelessly to deliver the highest quality care.”
3.30pm What are you up to? In many care homes, there are plenty of activities for you to try, from trips out to games like dominoes. But at other care homes there were reports that people had nothing to do – with reports from Ottley House in Shrewsbury of most people just sitting in their armchairs all day with their eyes closed.
Inspectors said: “We saw one person kicking the door to try and get out. We saw people walking round and round the unit and no one spoke with them.”
A spokeswoman said the home had taken “immediate action” including training for staff, appointing a new general and deputy manager, and upgrading the facilities: “We would like to reassure everyone of our commitment to provide the highest quality of care to those residing at Ottley House and to emphasise that their health and wellbeing is at the forefront of everything we do and are doing.”
6.40pm: Tired? Inspectors arrived unannounced at Corinthian House care home, in Leeds, at this time. They found 39 of 52 people in bed. Two people’s doors were shut even though they were awake and making continuous noise. At another home, one member of staff told someone who did not want to go to bed: “If you don’t go to bed now, I won’t be back, I don’t have time for this.”
9pm: Thirteen hours – the entire time this experiment has been running – is how long some patients at a care home, which has now closed, were left entirely unattended.
This is not the case at every care home – many are run well and compassionately. But 33 per cent rated under new inspection criteria were rated inadequate or in need of improvements and 1 in 5 do not have enough staff to look after people safely.
Do you want to put up with that for your family or yourself? If not, pledge your support for our campaign, or email us your stories, here.
This “day in the life” story is part of the Telegraph’s Justice for the Elderly campaign, which wants to see radical changes in the training and licensing of care workers and an improvement to elderly care across the country. While we know there are lots of professional and compassionate care workers, still 1 in 3 care homes rated since October by the Care Quality Commission were either “inadequate” or “requires improvement” and the watchdog says 1 in 5 do not have enough staff to provide good, safe, care.
The stories on this page are all based on inspection reports from the Care Quality Commission published between October 2014, when a new system came in, and January 2015.
The Telegraph has contacted all of the operators of the different homes to find out what has improved since the inspections, and their comments have been included.