There’s spin – and there’s spin. There’s careful choice of words – and there’s very careful choice of words. There’s spreading the message you want people to hear – and there’s spreading the message you know that others will repeat and spread for you.
This piece by Mike Parish, Chief Executive of Care UK, appeared on Care UK’s website on 1st June 2011, the day after transmission of the BBC Panorama programme ‘Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed’ showing the torture of people living at Castlebeck’s long-stay hospital/assessment/treatment hospital Winterbourne View. The day that Southern Cross was sinking further into the pits. Parish expresses his disappointment and frustration “at the recent unfavourable media coverage of the care sector”.
The same article has appeared elsewhere since then – spreading the message, just as Parish intended it to be spread.
Parish says “It’s undeniable that the news relating to Southern Cross’ financial difficulties and the disgraceful events at a Castlebeck home are deeply distressing. However, these are not at all typical of care providers whether public, private or charitable, who generally provide outstanding quality of care.” All care homes should always provide outstanding care – not just ‘generally’.
He goes on “We are entrusted wtih the ultimate responsibility of caring for vulnerable people ….” It is indeed a matter of life and death. Or does Parish mean the moral responsibility, for which of course there would need to be a sense of morality present in each and every employee of Care UK, including those workers being paid less-than-the-minimum-wage, not even a living wage by Care UK. Are they also required to demonstrate their sense of moral responsibility?
“….. Investing in the skills of our staff and in our quality controls makes a difference to our customers and to our staff.” It’s good to know that quality controls might be emerging in Care UK.
“…. Care UK’s quality ratings, as assessed independently by the Care Quality Commission, places it at the top end of the industry, with virtually all its services being rated good or excellent.” I’m not sure why Mr Parish should show such pride in the CQC, right at the time when the CQC is desperately in trouble for many reasons. Or perhaps it suits Mr Parish that the CQC can no longer be seen as fit for purpose, starved of staff and resources, abandoning inspections, and relying on the likes of Care UK to assess itself.
“….. We’ve maintained double digit annual growth rates for over two decades ….” Great news – but only if Parish can put his hand on his heart and swear that he has never never never (triple negative!) cut corners to save a few (million) bob, on any aspect of care in any one of his care homes, starving the staff of the training and monitoring and even basic equipment (such as capillary blood glucose monitoring strips), let alone the knowledge of how to communicate effectively with the local GP.
“…. We can only achieve this by maintaining the quality of our care and thereby the trust and confidence of our service users ….” See triple negative above!!
Parish has a very selective memory, or is it selective memory loss? Has he chosen to forget another BBC Panorama programme from 9th April 2009 – Britain’s Homecare Scandal – where “After thousands of complaints and over 900 missed calls Hertfordshire Council got rid of Care UK, just 10 months after they had been awarded the contract”. Many other contracts have also been lost by Care UK.
Has he also pressed the delete button on events at Care UK’s Lennox House in Islington, July/August 2008, and earlier too, the care home where the then-manager was suspended and allowed to resign after the bodies of two residents were left in their beds for days? As reported here in the Daily Mail – other reports are also available, such as this one from the Islington Tribune.
Or even the fact that the same Lennox House – which opened as a brand new flagship care home in the summer of 2007 – was subject to enforcement action and a massive ‘action/improvement plan’ and not allowed to accept new residents until May 2009, thanks to that wonderfully independent CSCI. That was nothing to do with the residents’ bodies being left in their beds for days. Things were always seen to have gone very wrong in December 2007, just months after Lennox House opened. CSCI/CQC reports available on the CQC website:
- here in particular pages 6-8, 30-32;
- here in particular pages 6, 8, 13-15, 26-27;
- here in particular pages 7-8, 13-15, 25, 27-28
In other words, Care UK’s Lennox House was not fit for purpose when it opened and received residents. Had it been, it would not have taken two years for it to demonstrate that it “continues to improve”, as noted by the CQC inspectors, and for it to drag itself up from a rating of ‘adequate’.
I’ve never been enamoured of the CSCI/CQC for personal reasons and because of my family’s experience of care home care. Their inspection reports have always taken 3 or more months to appear, rendering them even more meaningless than the toothless tick-box exercise they appear to have always been. As some of us have had to find out, the hard way, a care home can go from ‘flagship’ to ‘wreck’ in the blink of an eye, or even from good to bad to absolutely disgraceful, to use a word from Mr Parish’s comments above. Not that the CSCI noticed – until it had no choice but to be aware.
Mike Parish may also have chosen to forget this very recent revelation dated 6 May 2011: ‘An elderly woman from Worcester Park, was left in severe pain from injuries caused by care home negligence while staying at Appleby House, a care home operated by Care UK, a leading independent provider of health and social care services. The company has now paid the woman’s family compensation as she has since died.’ ….. ‘
Mrs Cunningham’s daughter Janice commented: “I think this incident highlights the casual way the elderly are treated in some residential care homes. I believe Epsom General Hospital shouldn’t have discharged my mother to such a poor home.
“It is terrible my mother had to endure the pain of the pressure sores. People need to be vigilant when it comes to the care a home is providing and not believe all you are told by the homes’ employees. It pays to investigate yourself.”
The above is taken from the website of Russell Jones & Walker the firm of solicitors who represented the very best interests of Josephine Cunningham and her daughter.
There’s no smoke without fire could be a message for Mike Parish to remember.
Today’s Today programme featured a good interview with Christopher Fisher, Chairman of Southern Cross. It’s worth a listen to hear what John Humphry’s describes as ‘semantics’, and what I’ve called above ‘very careful choice of words’. Fisher squirms, as to be expected, accepts his full share of responsibility, still defends his ‘business model’, but can’t bring himself to say sorry for his actions over recent years. He claims to have improved the standards of care over recent years – well, he’s also got a very conveniently selective memory, bearing in mind that almost 30 per cent of Southern Cross’s care homes have breached minimum standards and have been served ‘improvement notices’ by the CQC. He says that there were ‘issues in dealing’ with those standards of care, claiming to have invested heavily to improve training and support to employees. He talks of ‘people occupying beds’. Those people are not just occupying beds – the care homes have become their only home, where they expect to be assisted to live life to the full. They didn’t realise they were meant to be contributing to your profit margins, whether or not you chose to sell off care homes, lease them back, and then all sell off your shares to make big profits to the tune of £millions.
For goodness sake! The mealy-mouthed words of a weasel.
Nobody can blame all of the above on ‘unfavourable media coverage’ – not even Mike Parish.