Care home residents left ‘at risk of serious harm or death’

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People living in a care home which was shut down suddenly by health regulators were ‘at risk of serious harm - or even death.’

Those are the findings of a new report of an inspection of Horncastle House care home in Sharpthorne, near East Grinstead, by the Care Quality Commission.

The home is one of a number run by Sussex Health Care which is currently at the centre of a police investigation following the deaths of 13 people at nine of its homes.

Horncastle House shut suddently following the inspection by the Care Quality Commission on September 13. In its report out this week, the commission says: “At the time, inspectors had to intervene to keep people safe.”

An enforcement notice was issued and, says the commission, “Sussex Heath Care withdrew staff support effectively leaving the authorities with no alternative but to move the residents out that night.”

Commission deputy chief inspector Debbie Ivanova said:“The standard of care that we found on our inspection left us in no doubt that some people living at Horncastle House were in danger of choking if we did not act quickly to protect them. People were being exposed to immediate risk of serious harm or death because of the poor practice.

“In the circumstances we had no choice but to take urgent action, while at the same time working with colleagues from the local authority and the NHS to keep people safe.

“During an emergency closure, people do need to move but we recommend it is done in a planned and measured way. In this case the provider (Sussex Health Care) took the decision to withdraw their staff. That decision meant that the local authority had no alternative but to move people out that night, adding unnecessarily to the stress and worry for the families and for those involved.”

At a previous inspection in August, Horncastle House had been rated as ‘inadequate’ and Sussex Health Care said that it would take immediate action.

But on 13 September, following concerns that had been raised by a relative, inspectors said they found that ‘known risks to people had increased rather than reduced’.

The commission states: “There were not enough experienced and competent staff deployed to meet people’s needs, with a heavy reliance on agency staff who did not know people well. Staff practice was observed to be poor but had been unchallenged by managers or the provider.

“Information and records about people’s care needs were dangerously inaccurate and conflicting, making them unworkable as guidance to staff.

“The provider blamed the staff for letting them down - but did not properly take account of the provider’s responsibility to ensure that people received safe and appropriate care.”

Sussex Health Care has been approached for a comment.