Staff shortages and falling cleaning standards found in Tower Hamlets care homes, watchdog reveals

Tower Hamlets Care Homes

Tower Hamlets care homes. Credit: Gateway Housing Association.

Two Tower Hamlets care homes have been warned by a healthcare watchdog that they must improve, citing staff shortages and slipping cleaning standards among their inspection findings.

Stepney-based Peter Shore Court and Pat Shaw House, both managed by east London’s Gateway Housing Association, have been told by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that they require improvement after unannounced inspections in July and August 2015 found the homes to be inadequate in areas of responsiveness, safety, leadership and effectiveness.

An inspection into Peter Shore Court, which provides accommodation for up to 41 older people, many of whom are living with Dementia, found the home had “inconsistent care” as a result of an over-reliance on agency staff as well as the home’s inability to retain a permanent manager.

The inspection, which took place on July 28, 30 and August 4, found that Gateway Housing’s records indicated that there had been an increasing number of falls within the Stepney care home.

While this may be down to inconsistent reporting of falls by changing managers, inspectors witnessed people left unsupervised in communal areas for up to 15 minutes at a time due to staff shortages, and for longer when they were in their own bedrooms.

“A person who used the service told us, ‘[The service] has gone down and down because there are not enough staff on’” the report noted.

“On one occasion after lunch was served promptly, a person who used the service said, ‘Things are different today because [the inspection team is] here. There were three staff serving lunch which is never the case’.” the report continued.

The inspection team, which comprised five inspectors, also found that although there were systems in place to maintain a clean environment, standards slipped when domestic staff left for the day.

“We saw one communal toilet had a seat soiled with faeces for two hours and two toilets had no toilet paper in them”, the report stated. “Staff on duty could not tell us who was responsible for checking these in the night or during early mornings”.

Staff at Peter Shore were unaware of fire evacuation procedures and their support of people’s eating and drinking was “inconsistent at times”, the report stated.

In response to the inspection, Jane Ball, Director of Residents Services at Gateway Housing Association, told EastLondonLines: “We are working with residents and relatives to continue to provide high quality care to customers.”

“The first priority is to recruit permanently to vacancies to achieve a consistent standard of service.”

A spokesperson for Gateway Housing Association explained that the provider had undertaken a review of the duty rota at Peter Shore Court.

“We have revised the deployment of staff to ensure there are more staff available at busy times.”

“We are recruiting to new permanent roles to improve operational leadership at both homes and have interim arrangements in place to lead the service during transition” the spokesperson added.

The health watchdog inspected Pat Shaw House, which provides accommodation for up to 38 mainly older people, on August 25 and 27.

Two inspectors found that the care home’s “polite and respectful” staff had access to appropriate training, and received regular supervision from their line managers, however some workers did not have information about people’s nutritional needs.

“Someone with diabetes took advantage of a care worker’s ignorance of their condition and made some unwise choices”, inspectors noted during one mealtime.

The inspection also showed that while people’s dependency levels were checked on a regular basis to make sure that there were enough staff hours within the home, the tool used to check these levels focused more on those people requiring care for physical health, failing to address people’s mental health needs.

CQC Inspectors said that significant improvements had been made at Pat Shaw House since its last inspection in December 2014, when the home was found to be in breach of three regulations relating to repairs and maintenance, medicines management, assessment and care planning.

An unreliable lift had been replaced, and there was now “robust arrangement for carrying out health and safety checks and a prompt response to repairs”.

A spokesperson for Gateway Housing Association said: “The standard of care at Pat Shaw House was seen to be good, with staff relating well to residents and helping them to maintain their independence.“

“Gateway is looking to build on this positive in all other areas of its care for older people in Tower Hamlets.”

Pat Shaw House rated ‘requires improvement’ in four of the five CQC inspection areas: effective, responsive, safe and well-led.

The home received a ‘good’ rating in the inspection area ‘caring’.

Peter Shore Court rated as ‘inadequate’ in safety and “requires improvement” in all other areas.

Sally Warren, CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector for Adult Social Care, said: “Everyone should be confident that their local social care providers will deliver safe, effective, compassionate and high quality care.”

“We will expect them to deliver a full plan setting out how they will address the issues that have been identified.”

“We will share our findings with local commissioners, and we will return in due course to check that the required improvements have been made.”

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