Tag Archives: Southern Cross

Alzheimer’s Society and the Horse fraternity

Over recent months or even years, many people have become irritated, bemused, frustrated, confused and perplexed by the Alzheimer’s Society’s online chat room also known as Talking Point.  Posts have been dumbed down and members dumbfounded by many of the decisions made by the appointed representatives of the Alzheimer’s Society, working and operating its online forum.

Many people were hoping that things had changed, once the Alzheimer’s Society had rid itself of what it perceived to be irritating members who were brave enough to challenge the Administrative nonsense going on.  Similar to the way that Julie  Bailey and ‘Cure the NHS’ have challenged the brick walls of care, resulting at long last in the Francis Report.

It is so easy for the Alz Soc to ban forum members who challenged the ignorant actions of its Administrators and Moderators.  The Alz Soc compromised many members by editing and/or deleting their posts, even if they only referred to Winterbourne View, or … wait for it …. the British Geriatric Society, or even Peter Carter of the RCN.  All mentions were obliterated without being able to be questioned by the members.   Members who posted about BSE or CJD and dementia-linked situations were also deleted and obliterated.

It was all too uncomfortable for the Alzheimer’s Society to contemplate such matters.

It is far too comfortable for the Alzheimer’s Society to silence those members who had the guts to challenge matters.

It makes  me wonder how the Alz Soc will react if/when the latest horse-meat scandal comes to evidence a connection between dementia and the introduction into the human food supply of a drug called Phenylbutazone – a drug that is now only used in the care of horses but which was  previously used in the care of human beings who also happened to have arthritic/rheumatic joint problems.  The experimental use of Phenylbutazone in humans was disastrous and resulted in death, and it also resulted in Phenylbutazone being banned for use in human beings suffering from arthritis/rheumatism.  That was circa 1975, so it’s possible that any use of Phenylbutazone now in human beings is heavily restricted, controlled and monitored.  I hope so.

The Alz Soc shed the skin of those that it felt irritated by, namely those who posted examples of sub-standard care.  All mention of Winterbourne View was eradicated from the forum, as were posts mentioning Southern Cross, to name but a few.

Almost overnight, it became acceptable for people to name Stafford Hospital, to call social services ‘social circuses’, to talk of ‘lies and more lies’ when referring to social care systems that the posters had come by.  Even mention of MPs was suddenly allowed, whereas previous posts mentioning similar had been edited and/or deleted.  So members were thinking that things may be changing and on the up.

The forum Administrators and Moderators prod and poke and provoke.  Until such time as the Alzheimers’s Society’s appointed Administrators and Moderators can ban thinking members.  It’s so much more comfortable for the Alz Soc to leave its own comfort zone untouched and unsullied by those Members of the Alz Soc who would like questions to be answered.

The latest example goes beyond the acceptable when it comes to caring about dementia.  [I choose not to use the word Alzheimer’s because it denies recognition of all other forms of dementia.  It also sweeps away most of the important factor that people living in the UK care about at present.]

It is all swept away by someone who has no idea what it means to be trying to achieve quality care in the UK.

Here, the Alzheimer’s Society’s online Talking Point forum:

“While this may be your view, that’s all it is – your view. Some care homes may be like this, some are not. To state that all of anything is untrustworthy is inappropriate in my view.”

Is that the view of the Alzheimer’s Society?  Is it the view of an appointed Alzheimer’s Society person?  Is that the point of view of someone who has not one single clue about what it means to be living in the UK with dementia and caring about those who are living in the UK with dementia, let alone those who are living in the UK and still dealing with the care home system that is so sadly lacking in quality and standards of care.

It is the point of view of someone – an online forum Moderator,  appointed by the Alzheimer’s Society –  who has never had any direct experience of the care home system in the UK, who has never had any experience of social services in the UK, who has never had any dealings with that which most people are dealing with when it comes to care in the UK.

But someone who  is still given full reign to spout about that which affects every single person living in the UK.

A virtual Queen of the World.


Filed under abuse, accountability, dementia

The Madness of Alzheimer’s Society

This being the season of goodwill, my goodwill message to the Alzheimer’s Society is that it should open a dictionary and learn the meaning of the words ‘support’ and ‘discussion’.  Some of us dealing with dementia in our relatives and friends wonder why nothing changes for the better where dementia is concerned; why progress is so slow; why so many people have to tread the same stony path that others have trodden.  The answer may lie in the Alzheimer’s Society’s online forum.

The AS’s  online forum Talking Point claims to be “an online support and discussion forum, for anyone affected by dementia. It’s a place to ask for advice, share information, join in discussions and feel supported.”

The AS has destroyed the true meaning of those words.   With its dictatorial monitoring, editing and censorship of posts, the AS only allows words to be used if  they match those chosen by the AS.  Anything that doesn’t conform to the AS’s desired point of view is amended, edited or deleted by the AS.  Without discussion.

The Alzheimer’s Society condones strange practices within the administration and moderation of its forum.  It allows the banning and removal of people affected by dementia who have been members of the forum for many years now.  At the start of this year, one much respected member (since March 2006) who had posted almost 5,500 times on the forum has been deleted.  She’d been a member for longer than some of the moderators who have now condoned her removal.  She had been extremely supportive of others, providing much care and help, much respected by other members too.  But zapped by the AS, suddenly.  Without warning.

The reason given?  It was deemed by the AS that she was not posting as the AS wished her to post.  No discussion; no appeal; just zapped.  The Alzheimer’s Society’s word is final.

The AS condoned the removal of words like ‘Winterbourne View’ from every single part of the forum.  The reason given?  It does not allow mention of care providers by name.  The strange AS Administrator who carried out that action failed even to take on board the fact that Winterbourne View is no longer; it is no longer a provider of anything.  It no longer exists. (It’s difficult to argue that Winterbourne View ever was a ‘care’ provider, but that’s another debate.)  The salaried AS employees spent time searching for and deleting all mention.  Same applies to Southern Cross – all mention of that has been deleted too.  Even though Southern Cross no longer exists, and is not a care provider.

Rules is rules.  Common sense has gone out of the window, as far as the Alzheimer’s Society is concerned.  Censorship rules.

The AS condones the editing of posts by its moderators and administrators, even months after they’ve been posted.  It makes one wonder how many other posts have been doctored to suit the AS, without discussion with the original poster, and without appeal to reason.

It is censorship gone mad.  What is the AS so afraid of, that it needs to do this to people who are trying to change the world of dementia care?

One forum member posted recently that they’d only just read the Terms and Conditions for the first time – something referred to constantly whenever a moderator wants to spank a naughty member.  The Terms and Conditions were described, by this member, as ‘draconian’.  They certainly are just that.  The ‘infraction’ system is also draconian and childish, in the extreme.

The membership is not allowed to voice any objection, on the forum, to their post having been edited and/or deleted – or they receive a ‘yellow card’ for doing so.  Then another.  Then a ‘red card’ ….. and so it wends its childish way along the path to destruction of anyone who questions.

The members are required to contact the mods or admins by PM to ask for explanation.  However, often no explanation is given.  The member is then zapped before they can blink.  Their account is deleted, just like their posts may have been.  There is to be no discussion.  The AS word is final.  Unexplained but final.

A member is not allowed to delete their own account.  The figures of true membership would then be very different, but it suits the AS to make it seem as if it has more support for its forum than it has.  In reality, just a handful of regular members use what has now become a chat room.

The same rules don’t apply to the AS chosen moderators though.  They are allowed to post whatever they choose.  No matter how arrogantly rude they may be.   Some are worse than others, especially those that come out after dark.  One AS chosen moderator even posted the precise location where one member lives, with a barb attached to her post, of course.  That surely should have received a ‘red card’ followed by deletion of her membership too.  But no.  She can do whatever she chooses to do, even though the AS knows that she is provoking, inciting, stirring ill-will and uncomfortable feelings all round.

The moderators are immoderate enough to allow certain unfair comments to be made against a member – but only if it suits the moderators’ position, for whatever reason.  They have their favourites who can do no wrong, in their eyes.  They have their chosen victims who can do no right, in their eyes.

If the Alzheimer’s Society wants people affected by dementia to be able to share their experience of dementia in a free society, it must allow people to speak freely.  The moderators should be moderate, and should moderate sensibly, rationally and elegantly.  And with dignity and with compassion.  The current watchwords of dementia.  They should not feel the need to read every single post as it is posted, and then to alter it just to suit themselves.  They should not feel the need to amass a fan club amongst the membership, who are required to express their thanks to the moderators for ‘keeping us safe’.

The Alzheimer’s Society is destroying support for dementia, for its forum and for the Alzheimer’s Society.

The Alzheimer’s Society is consenting to the creation of a whole new generation of Stepford Wives.

Seasonal Greetings to those affected by dementia.  A plea to the Alzheimer’s Society to support them and to allow genuine discussion of the good, the bad and the ugly.



Filed under dementia care

A feisty band and Chai Patel and Southern Cross

Two appearances -in-word by Chai Patel over the last few days – and both seem fairly innocuous at first reading. 

A piece from Community Care on Friday 29 July 2011 begins:

Operators taking over Southern Cross homes face a long battle to earn the trust of residents and relatives, ex-Priory Group boss Dr Chai Patel has admitted as he prepares to take over one-third of the homes.

Patel told Community Care the firm he will head up to run the homes faces a “long journey” as “reputations are breached in a second and take years to build up”.

He’s referring to the reputation of Southern Cross there.  Perhaps he should remember his own reputation and the way it was sullied by the experiences of residents of Lynde House care home.

An article in the Express on Sunday 31 July 2011 refers back to the year 2000/1 when residents of Lynde House  care home were neglected and mistreated, when Lynde House was owned by Westminster Healthcare, with ….. Chai Patel as its then Chief Executive.  Patel sold Westminster Healthcare soon after the scandal emerged.  Patel was apparently interviewed on Friday 29 July 2011 and  the former government adviser on elderly care, vowed that he would protect pensioners from the kind of ­maltreatment suffered at Lynde House, in Twickenham, Middlesex.

The Express quotes him as saying “The residents felt they could get recourse only by going public which has tarnished my reputation… I have never tolerated poor care and never would ­tolerate poor care.” 

You can’t get away with that one, Chai Patel – otherwise people may be hoodwinked or even deceived by such protest!

Did Patel never bother to read the Report of the Lynde House investigation, dated May 2002 and published on 2 August 2002 – 9 years ago almost to the day? 

If the Chief Executive shoulders no ultimate responsibility for the standards of care provided – or rather the sub-standard care a.k.a. neglect provided – the Chief Executive should not share excessively in the profits made either. 

Let’s look also at 1 October 2002, when the London Evening Standard printed a neat summary of Patel’s career path.  Including these words from Vince Cable talking about the feisty woman who had the courage to stand up to Chai Patel: 

“Without Gillian Ward and her brave group of relatives, none of this would have come to light,” says MP Vincent Cable. “They have done us a major public service. The climate of denial they faced was ferocious.”  “When I first raised the issue with Chai Patel, he totally poohpoohed it. All he had to do was to care enough to acknowledge their complaints, deal with them and apologise. But he chose to deny it and that led to it becoming a national public campaign.” 

I do hope that the residents and relatives of all current Southern Cross care homes don’t have to face the same kind of ferocious denial. I also hope that in his new role, Chai Patel will accept responsibility for the care provided in his name and under his banner.

Where does the buck stop?  If it doesn’t stop with the Chief Executive of a private care provider, then the buck will be in perpetual motion. 

And here’s Gillian Ward again – also known as Deddie Davies.  Still supporting those in care. 

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Filed under care, care homes, justice, personal responsibility, professional responsibility

Southern Cross builds another brick wall of silence

You take a break – switch off – relax.

You come back and discover that  Southern Cross is to close and then, within hours, our  wonderful government publishes its Open Public Services White Paper.

The ‘brick wall of silence’ is distressing Southern Cross care staff – so goodness knows how the residents and their families must be feeling.

To add insult to injury, of Southern Cross’s  752 homes, according to Community Care, 250 ‘will return to landlords who are themselves operators or have close links to operators, while the others are finalising arrangements.

The larger group includes landlords NHP and Loyds Properties, which between them own more than 300 Southern Cross homes. Separately, Loyds has gone into administration, a process overseen by Grant Thornton.

NHP and Grant Thornton are thought to be working to bring an experienced operator into their portfolio of homes with former Priory owner Chai Patel tipped.  Last week Patel was brought in as an adviser to NHP on a possible shake-up of its homes, according to the Guardian.  However it is unclear what will happen to the remaining homes.’

You remember, suddenly, Lynde House care home from May 2002 – owned then by Westminster Care under the ‘guidance’ of Chai Patel.  ‘Lynde House is a nursing home owned by Westminster Health Care and has been operating since 1996. Westminster Health Care was registered by the Kingston and Richmond Health Authority to provide general nursing care only to seventy-two elderly frail residents. In May 1999 Dr C Patel and Mr Tony Heywood bought Westminster Health Care from the previous owners.’

The Investigation Report from May 2002 is available here .

Then you remember, from your last visit to the Nursing and Midwifery Council Hearings listings, that Lynette Maggs and Sarah Johnson are both scheduled to be ‘heard’ on 25 July 2011.  Lynette Maggs was the Matron of Lynde House; Sarah Johnson was the Manager of Lynde House.  Both cases have been ongoing for years now, so may not reach a conclusion in July.

 The Lynde House Relatives Support Group have surely waited more than long enough.  They tried their utmost to alert Chai Patel’s enterprise to the problems.  This was the response:

“When concerns were raised with Westminster Health Care about this £800-a-week  nursing home – which promised round the clock care for the elderly (many of whom  were incapable of even feeding themselves) – one relative was told to ‘look  elsewhere’. Margaret Jones, Regional Manager of WHC dismissed us, declaring that  Lynde House was ‘as good as a Travel Lodge’. Sheila Roy, Group Director of Healthcare Services, told us that ‘pressure sores are inevitable’.”

Today, The Guardian reports that Southern Cross ‘was forced into announcing its wind-up this week by its former sister company and largest landlord, shareholders were told on Tuesday.

Southern Cross chairman Christopher Fisher told an investors’ meeting that NHP – itself controlled by a string of banks – “pulled the rug” from under its tenant causing the firm to conclude last weekend that it would have to be broken up.’

Which brings us back to Chai Patel!

NHP has now hired Chai Patel and he is is expected to play a leading role in the NHP-owned properties.  No surprises there!!

We are reminded constantly that ‘lessons will be learned’.  Will they?




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Filed under care, care homes, justice

A care home or a disaster waiting to happen?

This is not something I’d planned to write just yet, but the shocking abuse of people with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View shown in the recent BBC Panorama programme, and the reasons behind the demise of private care provider Southern Cross have troubled me enormously,  so I’ve revised my plan.  I will do all I can personally to raise awareness of the crisis in care that is slowly being revealed.  With help from everyone involved and interested enough to care, we will bring about a change for the better.

I had intended to work my way slowly through the failings of the so-called care system that have affected my own family and my own life before reaching this chapter, but the world has changed, so I will start at the end.

The horrors of the torture of adults with learning difficulties at Winterbourne View long-stay/residential hospital have caused many people to ask questions.  The regulator CQC has so far not come up with answers but has promised an internal investigation.  Paul Burstow, care minister, promises action to safeguard vulnerable people in care.  Andrew Lansley, health secretary, managed to use the scandal to plug his questionable Health and Social Care reforms in his statement on Winterbourne View, and he talks of a ‘serious care review’ (sic).

John Healey, shadow health secretary, can manage only this empty comment on Southern Cross: “Thousands of very vulnerable people and their families will be worried sick by what’s being reported about Southern Cross.”  Ed Miliband is turning into the invisible man, so I can’t find anything of interest that he’s said over the last week – but he did get married recently so the honeymoon may be reason for the sound of silence.

It’s almost as if this bunch of ‘representatives of the people’ have only just arrived on the scene from another planet – but, no, they’ve all been on one side or other of the political washing line for years now.  Wearing blinkers, and all turning a blind eye to what so many real people have had to put up with.  Yes, I’ve written long and clearly worded letters to all of them over recent years, but – just like the CQC did to Terry Bryan, the senior nurse with the big whistle that nobody bothered to listen to when he blew it loudly in their ears – they all stick their heads in the sand, delegate matters downwards to someone who has a high qualification in the ‘copy & paste department’, who then creates a meaningless letter of reply quoting platitudes.  Pointless exercise – and a waste of an opportunity to ‘represent the people’ which is what they’re all paid to do.

I listened to BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions at the weekend.  Some of the panel don’t even know the difference between NHS care and social care, but they are the ones with the power to influence the audience, to make decisions about our lives.  Power is dangerous; power corrupts …. but that’s something I’ll leave for another day, and I will try to return to the abuse of power.

For far too long, the sound of silence has done its best to try to deafen and silence those of us who have not turned a blind eye.

Those responsible for the neglect and abuse of vulnerable adults in need of decent care have managed to create a system that arrogantly dismisses each and every major concern that is brought their way.  People ask how a care home could possibly exist that doesn’t provide decent care.  People ask who is responsible.  People wonder who is to blame when things go so badly wrong.   I’m not alone in knowing how these things come about – read on!!

They’re all in it together.  The care providers, the local authority care commissioning departments, the so-called regulator CQC, the formal complaints procedures that take away the will to live from those who dare to complain, the social services departments, the safeguarding of vulnerable adults units, the MPs who can’t be bothered to care, the Ombudspersons, the police who can’t find a way to help, the GMC, the NMC, the PCTs, the ICO – to name but a few.

After the scandal of Winterbourne View, someone asked “Is this the tip of an iceberg?”.  It is one hell of an iceberg.

Is what follows the description of a care home fit for purpose?  Or was it a disaster waiting to happen?

Please share any answers you may have, because I’ve almost lost the will to live too, but only almost.

A residential care home for 90 frail and vulnerable older people, many with dementia, described as a flagship, state-of-the-art care home, showing ‘the way forward for the future care of older people’, but where:

  • there were no systems in place for appropriate staff selection, staff induction, training, and on-going supervision
  • communication with GPs and other health services was seriously, dangerously and sadly lacking
  • new staff received no induction programme
  • pre-admission assessments, risk assessments did not reflect residents’ needs, follow-up assessments were not undertaken
  • care plans were not written up in a meaningful way, let alone looked at by the staff
  • the staff did not understand their roles
  • there were no systems in place to monitor hydration and nutrition
  • the nursing records did not reflect patients’ needs
  • the care plans did not identify needs
  • the record-keeping was seriously challenged and challenging
  • no charts available for the monitoring of decline in a resident
  • there was no system in place for clinical supervision and performance appraisal
  • nursing staff without chronic disease management training
  • no records kept of any training that was provided, if any was provided
  • no knowledge of or training for diabetes management in place
  • no system in place for routine monitoring of diabetes, swallowing or breathing difficulties,
  • unsigned and undated and often illegible records kept, with entries that were meaningless
  • a total lack of understanding of the need for and reasons for accurate medical/clinical records to be kept
  • MAR (medication administration records) with entries unsigned or countersigned, and changes made without signature or date
  • no records available to give details of the suitability of the staff to be employed in their positions
  • no records available to give details of the employment status of the staff.

I can’t list any more now – but I trust you get the gist of this particular disaster waiting to happen.

Was that a care home fit for purpose?  Or was it a disaster waiting to happen?

But nobody noticed.  Until it was too late.

And yet, the care provider provided the care home with nursing and many others; the local authority commissioning department commissioned it and allowed it to open – so delighted was the local authority that it gave several 25-year contracts to the care provider to provide such services; the CQC/CSCI inspected and found all to be in order – before the ship sank, that is; the social services department found it suitable for vulnerable elderly people to be placed there – but placing them at even greater risk.

Unsurprisingly, the ship hit the rocks.

Then, and only then, did they all go behind closed doors, into a huddle, impose a massive action plan, close it for a full year to new residents – that’s the best that could have been done, although there were calls in the area for it to be closed in its entirety.  But, hey, the local authority had entered into a 25 year contract.  The care provider was in splendid ignorance – at first, but is no longer so innocent.  The care provider is not a novice to this business.  That is one of the most distressing and most depressing aspects of it all.  How many other care homes are there, being run in a similarly shoddy fashion, with careless care being provided to some who because of age, disability or illness are at their most vulnerable and who deserve good care.

My patience has been tried and tested, almost to the point of exhaustion, as I worked my way through each and every stage of the complaints procedure, before being allowed to progress to the next stage, and I haven’t yet reached the end of it all.  It is obscene, offensive, corrupt, squalid and unworthy of the word ‘care’ for this system to be allowed to exist, with absolutely no accountability, nobody prepared or willing to accept personal responsibility, and all behind closed doors, so that the wider world remains unaware of what is being perpetrated and perpetuated.

Over the weekend, I decided to look back over quite a few years.  From just a couple of years:

published 13 June 1998 : ‘In the short term, decentralisation shifts responsibility for funding care to individuals. In the long term, the combination of decentralisation and privatisation may make the costs of care higher than they need be to government and society. In the USA, the loss of control over the finance and delivery of long-term care seems to have increased the cost to government and decreased quality and access for individuals. The effects of these policies have not been adequately studied and understood in either country.’  (Allyson Pollock and Charlene Harrington.  I do wish we would learn to listen to Prof Allyson Pollock!)

published 4 April 1999 : ‘Local authorities have to get as many placements as possible with insufficient money,” he says. “If care is going to be determined by people undercutting each other, we’re going to be in an appalling situation.

published 8 September 1999 : ‘Care homes may be forced to close due to government quality measures.  Care home owners are demanding urgent talks with the government because of fears measures designed to improve quality will lead to home closures.

published 11 November 1999 :  ‘Training has been the Achilles heel of social care with about 80 per cent of the workforce unqualified and an absence of clear employer responsibilities and targets. But a five-year training strategy by national training organisation TOPSS England aims to change this.’

‘It sets training standards and new qualifications for local authorities and the private sector covering a social care workforce of approximately one million. It draws together NVQs and post qualification training, spanning care workers in nursing homes and social services directors. As well as setting targets for training and qualifications, the five-year action plan aims to predict what future skills will be most in demand and how the government, employers, and employees should pay for the training.’

‘And the picture of training to emerge in other areas is little better. Only 19 per cent of staff in homes for people with learning difficulties were qualified and only 23 per cent of staff in homes for older people.’

‘Andrea Rowe, manager of TOPSS England, says the new regulatory regime will be judging care homes on the quality of their training as well as service standards being developed by the government. “They will lean on homes and close them down if they don’t meet the new service standards,” she says.’

‘Private residential and nursing homes claim they face a financial crisis, pointing to a mounting number of receiverships.’

It appears that we have made no progress.  We being the real Big Society ‘we’ – each and every person involved in the decision-making process.   The ones to suffer are the ones in care.  They suffer neglect and abuse because of society’s inability to show that it cares. .


Filed under abuse, care, neglect

Panorama – Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed

It must be impossible to have watched the Panorama programme last evening without feelings of disgust, revulsion, horror and utter disbelief.  The torture inflicted by so-called support workers on adults with learning disabilities was reminiscent of a horror movie.

It’s available here if you missed it, and if you feel strong enough to watch it.  It certainly comes with a warning

Joe Casey, the investigative journalist working undercover as a support worker at Winterbourne View, shot footage on his hidden camera that is almost impossible to describe.  His article in today’s Daily Mail puts into words the scenes transmitted.

Winterbourne View is described as a hospital, run by Castlebeck, a company I’ve never heard of before.   Joe Casey uses the words ‘state-of-the-art’ hospital – I’ve developed an allergy to such descriptions now, because it was a ‘state-of-the-art flagship’ care home that was responsible for the neglect and death of my own relative.

According to Castlebeck’s website, Winterbourne View ‘is a purpose designed acute service, offering assessment and intervention and support for people with learning disabilities, complex needs and challenging behaviour’.

It is the staff at Winterbourne View who are in need of immediate assessment and intervention because of their own acutely challenging behaviour.  Now that some of them have been arrested and placed under police investigation they will hopefully receive a full assessment of their own needs for care, long-term care, with fully trained supervision, support and care.  Their mental health needs should have been addressed beforehand, by Castlebeck who employed them as ‘fit for purpose’.  I hope that not one of them will ever be allowed to work in the world of care again, once they have been dealt with in an appropriate fashion by our system of justice.  They are thugs – not support workers.  They don’t know the meaning of the words ‘support’ or ‘care’.

The management – if there is any – cannot plead innocence and ignorance of the situation.  Local and senior management must have known what was going on, but they ignored the whistle blown by a former senior nurse, Terry Bryan.  He tried to get them all to act – but they all failed to listen to his whistle.

As did the Care Quality Commission.  The horse has always bolted before the CQC gets anywhere near the door.  The CQC does not respond to complaints brought to it by us, mere human beings.  The CQC merely hands those concerns down to the very service that is at the centre of the concerns.   The CQC needs to establish a unit that deals in depth with each and every concern brought to it – and not just as another paper-exercise, which appears to be the only thing that the CQC currently has the ability to handle.  It only takes the CQC to ignore one single concern, like this one highlighted to the CQC long ago by a Senior Nurse, and you can end up with a torture setting being allowed to flourish.  That’s nothing to do with care – it’s all to do with neglect.  I accuse the CQC of neglect in the case of Winterbourne View.  To mention just one establishment that the CQC has neglected.

What is the point of a regulator if a regulator is incapable of regulating?

This was institutional abuse.  Abuse that was seen to be happening and so should have been prevented.

There are other kinds of institutional abuse that can never be seen until it’s too late, but they too can result in the destruction of life.  But the very systems within any care setting – that that the CQC and local authorities are meant to ensure are in place – can be absent and impossible for the person in need of care and/or their relatives to identify as being absent.  That’s what a regulator is supposed to be doing.  Ensuring that every single system is in place to protect those people who are at risk.

The Castlebeck website claims to be proud of its staff trainingCastlebeck has a very strong training and development programme. Staff are encouraged to improve their performance and the performance of others.

The company has appeared in the top half of the Nursing Times Top 100 Employers survey for the last three yeas.

Shame on them all, and heaven help those in the bottom half of the NT’s list.

Unless and until there is widespread recognition that the care system needs a thorough overhaul, nothing will change.  I’m sick and tired of hearing apologies, and “this will never happen again”.  It does.  It continues to happen.  Day by day by day – somewhere in the UK.  Oh yes, I have no doubt that there are good hospitals, good care homes, good care workers out there, but there are also too many shabby, sub-standard operations that are allowed to abuse people.

Alongside a radical shift in attitudes, the language of care also needs to change – I hold the CQC and its predecessor the CSCI responsible for the fact that the language of care is enabling abuse.

CQC statement:  “We apologise to those who have been let down by our failure to act more swiftly to address the distressing treatment that people at this hospital were subjected to.”

CQC has “spoken to the former member of the hospital staff, apologised for not contacting him earlier and offered to discuss his concerns.”

CQC says “We have asked Panorama to provide us with detailed information about the hospital to help us in our continuing regulatory work. We have also suggested that in future we would welcome earlier involvement by the programme in cases such as this so that we can step in to protect people as early as possible.”

Why would the CQC listen to Panorama any more than the CQC listens to people who bring concerns to the CQC?  Panorama is not the regulator.  The CQC doesn’t care enough to listen to those who are in the frontline and that includes staff blowing whistles, residents or patients complaining,  and relatives of those in care who are concerned.  But Panorama has the power to name and shame those who pretend to care.

‘National Minimum Standards’ – ‘Essential Standards’ – ‘Regulatory body’ – all meaningless words.

How about a new standard: Guaranteed Quality Standard without which no care home will be allowed to operate, without which no manager will be allowed to manage, without which no nurse or support worker will be allowed to work.

Where are the Required Standards?  Required standards of training for all support workers before being let loose to work in care?  Required standards of supervision of all staff?  Required standards of regulation?  Required standards of career progression for all care workers?  Required standards of respect for all care workers who provide good standards of care?

One of our esteemed (not always) MPs – was it Iain Duncan Smith? – suggested that  unemployed people in receipt of benefits should be forced to work in the community in places like care homes.  Well, my message back would be that you show no respect for the world of care, no respect for staff who might be good support workers if given support themselves, and no respect for the people in need of care.  Because you could end up with utter chaos – but, I am presuming that all the staff working at Winterbourne View were carefully selected, CRB checked, trained and supervised, especially the most senior thug of them all.

And all this on the day that Southern Cross is in desperate trouble, with the begging bowl out now, all because Southern Cross failed to get its priorities right.  It failed to remember that it’s there to provide care.  If Lansley and Burstow and our Demolition Government don’t care enough to care, they should be ashamed of themslves.

How about begging for guaranteeed standards of decent care for those in need of care?  But we shouldn’t need to beg for that, should we.   It should be a basic provision made available by a civilised country.  If we really care.


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Southern Cross under fire over pensioner’s agony

Southern Cross wonders where its profits have gone?  Two days ago I suggested that people are becoming wary – and weary – of the problems surrounding Southern Cross care homes. a reference to the many investigations that have been or are being undertaken in connection with their care homes.

Today, the Manchester Evening News (but be warned before you click on that link – it is not for the timid) carries the horrific story of Betty Delaney, 82, who suffered severe neglect in a Southern Cross care home, where the frail pensioner was left in agony with bedsores during the final months of her life.

The family’s solicitor Sian Thompson said she was pleased the care home’s owners had admitted liability, adding: “Southern Cross could have easily prevented Mrs Delaney’s bedsores by putting her on a pressure mattress, turning her and checking on her regularly and having a risk assessment in place.

“Not only did they fail to do this, they failed to even detect there was a problem.

“This case highlights the way our elderly are so often forgotten about. Betty Delaney should never have been put through this indignity, and we hope the admission of liability has brought some closure for her family.”

“Not only did they fail to do this, they failed to even detect there was a problem.” That is inexcusable, and no amount of post-rationalisation can ever justify such unprofessional low standards of care.

Mrs Delaney, my thoughts will be with you, and with your family.  The likelihood of closure for the family is slim.  They will be only too aware that there was nothing they themselves could have done to prevent the pain Betty Delaney endured.  But they will be left wondering for ever and a day how it came to be that nobody at Southern Cross, nobody at Rochdale Council, nobody at the CQC, and nobody at Oakland Care Home, Rochdale, “detected there was a problem” with the quality of care – or rather the inferiority of care at Southern Cross.

Many people reading this article about Betty Delaney will perhaps be under the impression that neglect in care is a very rare occurrence.  It isn’t, as I know myself.  I believe we need a strong change in the culture of care so that we can work towards a nationwide standard of care that we can be proud of.

At present, we naively rely on the word ‘care’ to mean just that, but we do so at our peril.

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From grey power to Care UK via Briars care home and via Southern Cross

My time is heavily ‘restricted’ at present, but I don’t want to lose sight of a few things that have come my way recently, so a miscellany of care in the UK today.

From 26 February 2004: If … the Generations Fall Out :

“It is 2024 and the baby boomer generation, currently in their forties and fifties, are starting to retire. The number of people over 65 has increased by nearly 50% since 2004. And this is just the beginning.”  The start of things to come?

From 23 March 2004: The Rise of grey power:

With a falling birth-rate, increased life expectancy and a shrinking number of working-age people to pay for the welfare state, there are set to be pressure points ahead.

From December 2007:  Prospect of moving to a care home frightens two thirds of Britons:

“Britons are living in fear of growing old in a society that fails to respect the over-65s or provide adequate support for those in need, a Guardian poll reveals today.

It found a country struggling to come to terms with demographic pressures that are set to see an increase in the number of older people by more than 60% over the next 25 years, putting a huge strain on the resources of the welfare state.”

From 6 August 2010:  Southampton Briars care home bosses sentenced:

“A care home owner has avoided jail after she was convicted of ill-treating and neglecting residents.

Annette Hopkins, 65, who owned Briars Retirement Home, Southampton, was order to pay a total of £52,000 and given a 30-week suspended prison sentence.

Care home manager Margaret Priest, 56, was ordered to carry out 200 hours community service after also being found guilty of wilful neglect.”

That particular result bothers me – and especially “Judge Derwin Hope said both were unqualified to do their job and they had not kept up with legislation to protect vulnerable people.  But he decided not to jail them because they were “obviously caring people” based on the references from their supporters”  I have problems with that decision of yours, Judge Hope, and I hope you will consider things differently in future.  Anyone running and managing a care home should be qualified to do the job and must keep up with legislation to protect vulnerable people – no matter whether their ‘supporters’ can provide good references!  Where are the references for the vulnerable people?  Did you have an equal number submitted to you?

From 9 August 2010: Profits plunge at care firm Southern Cross :

“The UK’s biggest care home operator today revealed earnings have plummeted by £7m in the last three months.  Bosses at Darlington-based Southern Cross Healthcare announced they expect total earnings to have dived by £20m by the end of the financial year.”   I’m not sure such a plummet could be all down to the fact that local authorities are placing fewer people in your care homes, Southern Cross.  Could it be down to the fact that many people are becoming very wary – and weary – of the problems that surround Southern Cross care homes?

And finally, also from today 9 August 2010:  Brighton and Hove private care provider nets £767,000 for work it didn’t do :

“One of Brighton and Hove’s leading private health providers has made an extra £767,000 for work that it didn’t do.

Care UK, which runs several NHS services in Brighton & Hove, pocketed the money for the 2009-10 financial year.

The sum relates to work scheduled at the Sussex Orthopaedic Treatment Centre in Haywards Heath.

Sven Rufus, the Brighton and Hove Green Party health spokesman, said: “This is another example of how difficult it is to manage and ensure value for money from outsourcing public services to private contractors.

“It’s clearly inappropriate for Care UK to be taking home an extra three quarters of a million pounds of taxpayer money for failing to do much as work as was predicted.”

More another day.

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What does it take for a care provider to provide care in the UK?

Shares in Southern Cross, the UK’s largest operator in the care homes business, fell to their lowest level in a year and a half last Tuesday.  Chief Executive Jamie Buchan said Southern Cross had been hit by a reduction in placements by local authorities.  The Financial Times commented, on 11 May 2010:

Southern Cross investors have needed nerves of steel to stomach the roller coaster ride they have endured over the past two years. The group’s New Horizons restructuring is improving quality in its homes, which will help it to increase the fees it charges, as hard-pressed local authorities become increasingly picky about who they fund. In the meantime, the group’s cost structure remains onerous.

Southern Cross certainly has had a rough couple of years but nobody forced it to follow the route of rapid expansion.  Personal choice, personal responsibility and greed plunged it into financial crisis in 2008.   Bill Colvin, the chief executive left holding the fort, after the resignation of a couple of his colleagues, said then: “We have been caught by the credit market situation and the commercial property market situation.

By 2009 it was clear that all was not well with the care provided by Southern Cross to many of the vulnerable elderly people living in its care homes, with 29% of its homes rated ‘adequate or poor’ by CSCI (now CQC).  Southern Cross was prosecuted five times in seven years after a series of deaths and safety failings.  That was no way to run a business, no way to show that you cared.

Southern Cross is not alone in failing to show it cares.  Have a look at this promo video for Care UK designed to attract investment – decide for yourself whether Care UK really respects vulnerable elderly people, let alone cares about them.  Update: 8 July 2010 0900 hrs: the promo video has just been deleted, ‘removed by the user’.  Thank goodness.  It was disgusting.

Care UK hit the spotlight again when Panorama revealed the shocking state of domiciliary homecare in a TV programme in April 2009, exposing the misery and neglect provided by some of our so-called ‘care providers’.   Care UK has lost contracts left, right and centre in recent years – but nothing changes; they are unstoppable, almost – as Outside Left pointed out in November 2009.

Unstoppable also in their ever-increasing talent of neglecting residents, as the family of Eric Wilder must feel:

Eric Wilder died on Saturday morning at the age of 80 from pneumonia after being rushed to West Middlesex Hospital last Thursday, where it was found he was suffering from blood loss, failing kidneys and anaemia. But his daughters Maureen Wilder and Pamela Forey claim if staff at Charlotte House nursing home in Snowy Fielder Waye had acted quicker their father would still be here today.  ……

A spokesman for Care UK, who run the home, said: “We’d like to express our sympathy to the family of Mr Wilder. “We will investigate any complaint thoroughly in line with our complaints policy and feedback to Mr Wilder’s family and the local social services department.”

Care UK even managed to neglect residents after their death – surely the lowest of the low.

A few very recent examples of a few matters that we must bring to the close attention of our newly elected servants:

13 January 2010: 106-year old woman evicted from her care home – the words are here; the pictures here

3 months later: Underhill House care home is still open and being used as a day centre now – provider Wolverhampton City Council

21 April 2010: Emergency steps to close ‘The Briars’ Southampton care home were unusual

23 April 2010: :  Stench of urine in  resident’s room at ‘The Briars’  Southampton care home overwhelmed inspectors on an unannounced visit, a court heard

28 April 2010:  Land girl pensioner’s care ‘worse than a dog’ – NHS Luton & Dunstable hospital

3 May 2010: Gateshead Council’s care faces criticism

6 May 2010: 85-year old Dementia patient was force-fed by a nurse – provider: Four Seasons Health Care

7 May 2010: BOSSES at a Norfolk care home have admitted they have changed their staffing roster following an investigation into standards by County Hall – provider: Southern Cross

11 May 2010: A Bristol care home worker is on trial for the ill-treatment of a 93-year-old resident – provider: Mimosa Healthcare Ltd

14 May 2010: The family’s anger at the Bristol care home worker convicted of the ill-treatment

12 May 2010: Ross-on-Wye care home boss in neglect arrest is bailed – provider: Autumn Days Care Ltd.

The horse has always bolted before care providers provide care.  Their major talent seems to lie in their ability to find an excuse, a scapegoat, always.  They blame the current political climate, the reduction in government and local authority spending and, perversely, even the increasing number of elderly people requiring care.  The CQC claims to regulate and inspect; there are National Minimum Standards for care homes; we have Safeguarding/Adult Protection procedures; local authorities are also responsible for so very many aspects of the neglect they commission in the name of care.

The list is endless.  The whole system is rotten to the core, with complaints procedures – sorry, I should say ‘formal complaint procedures’ – drawn out to exhaust the most patient of people.  We have the CQC, and the NMC; the GMC and the LGO; the OPHSO and …. numerous other combinations of a selection of the 26 letters of the alphabet.

Unison – a million voices for change – highlights the failings of private homecare providers – and before long, Islington Council will have no contracts left for the provision of care.  What then?  Care UK has a 25-year contract to run three care homes in Islington, but is now planning to concentrate on the self-funders.  I wonder why that could be???

But, it doesn’t have to be like that.  It does not have to be like that.

Philip Norman tells his story of care, kindness and compassion.   His words should serve as a reminder to everyone that with effort and genuine dedication to duty on the part of those responsible for the delivery of safe care, we will be able to count on those same qualities, when we reach the point of needing to place our own relatives into the caring hands of others.  Home care, hospital care, or residential care.

Chilling words Philip Norman used as well: “we struck lucky”.  It should not be a matter of luck.  It should be a matter of course.


Filed under care, care homes, dementia care, domiciliary homecare, growing older, neglect