So I honestly hoped I wouldn’t have to return here, but another Southern Cross Care Home is in the news after a 97 year old woman died last week at the River View Care Centre near Reading as is reported in the Daily Mail.
People die in care homes. It happens. However this particular woman is alleged to have suffered from hypothermia after spending a week, in the afore-mentioned care home, without any heating. In the coldest week for a couple of decades.
It is an allegation still, of course, but it’s definitely a story as it has been confirmed that the police are investigating – and I think it is important to follow – the BBC reports a Southern Cross spokesman saying
“On the day that the lady was removed to hospital, the home was visited by nine social workers, and four council engineers,” he said.
“They inspected the heating, which was working normally, and the readings in every room were between 21C and 25C.
“And ever since, all rooms have been inspected twice a day.”
In my experience that is not the usual response to a 97 year old dying in a care home setting.
The local newspaper, the Reading Evening Post reports that
It is alleged the woman died of hypothermia and the police are investigating the privately owned care home, which was given a one-star rating by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in May 2008, deeming it only adequate.
Accusations surrounding the death include a lack of heating in certain parts of the building due to a technical fault which left some rooms in the cold while the outside temperatures were plummeting to well below freezing.
As usual, I had a look at the latest inspection report for the residential home, dated May 2008. I am not sure what happened to the twice yearly inspections we used to have. River View achieved a one star rating meaning it is ‘adequate’.
Bear in mind that the same inspection report lists the fees as being between £545 and £818 per week.
A quick glance through the report (pdf link) seems to indicate a lack of social needs being addressed –
Care plans meet residents’ physical needs, they do not address all of people’s social needs and care is not always delivered in a respectful way.
I’ve read a lot of inspection reports in my time, and ‘care is not always delivered in a respectful way’ is actually exceptionally strong by their standards. Definitely worrying. I read on.
During the course of the site visit one member of staff was suspended for inappropriately dealing with a resident.
That has to be remarkable misfortune for there to be an issue at exactly the time the inspector happened to be visiting.
There are, of course positives in the report too, that is the nature of them but they are rarely critical even when a home only receives a one star rating. Maybe they should be less bland in their content.
It is staggering that there isn’t more concern about the level of care in some of these homes that house some of the most vulnerable citizens in the country.
The Telegraph covers the same story and lists a litany of previous failings upheld against Southern Cross
Southern Cross Healthcare PLC was fined £200,000 pounds in January this year after pensioner Maisie Jones fell out of an upstairs window as she tried to escape from one of their care homes in Oxford.
The UK’s largest residential care provider admitted two breaches of Health and Safety regulations at Brookfield Christian Care Home in Greater Leys, Oxford.
In November 2002 Southern Cross’s Bishopsgate Lodge Home in County Duham was found to have a mechanism allowing baths to scald patients with water reaching 53 degrees centigrade.
It was fined £8,000 pounds and costs.
In June 2003 an elderly man died at Alexandra Care an elderly man died at Alexandra Care Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Herts., when he was strangled by a strap on a reclining chair due to a lack of supervision.
The firm paid more than £30,000 pounds in costs and fines.
In April 2005 Margaret O’Mara suffocated in a bed following a series of errors by staff at Hornegarth House in Cannock.
The company was given a record £175,000 pounds fine and paid £15,919 pounds in costs.
I wish I could say it was unbelievable. I know it’s the largest provider of residential care in the UK but it isn’t a great track record. By any standards.