Staff and patients living at three adjoining Hetton-le-Hole care homes were “put at risk” of catching Covid because there were problems with PPE availability and keeping records of coronavirus test results.
After inspections in September and October, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated S.E.L.F (North East) Limited – which runs care services at 14, 15, and 16 Park View in the town – as “inadequate” and it has placed the operator into special measures.
A damning inspection report highlights a string of failures both around safety precautions to prevent the spread of infections like Covid and when it came to ensuring residents in the homes were supported to live independently.
Residents at the homes – which cater for people with learning disabilities – had limits placed on when they had their cash cards and when they could vape or smoke, while some even lived in a building without heating or hot water for weeks.
A police investigation is also taking place in response to concerns around financial abuse.
The CQC said its inspections had been triggered by staff whistleblowers who had not been listened to when raising concerns internally.
The homes at 14 and 15 Park View were rated “inadequate” for being safe, well-led and effective, while 16 Park View received a similar rating but was “requires improvement” when it came to effectiveness, the CQC said. All three homes are operated by the same firm.
At all three homes, it was found that “people were not protected from the risk of financial abuse” and “discrepancies” were found in residents’ financial records.
Operators were also found to have “failed to have effective systems to prevent discrimination” towards residents.
Concerns have since been raised both with the police and the local authority safeguarding team.
Fire safety documentation was not maintained correctly, nor were risks managed properly.
The CQC said the S.E.L.F. (North East) “did not always follow Covid-19 protocols”, and PPE was “not readily available”. The CQC said the operator had told it a visit with an infection protection nurse had been arranged.
In its report it added that: “Although we found no evidence that people had been harmed, the service did not have effective systems to prevent and control the spread of infections.”
The CQC found “peoples’ fundamental human rights and choices had been removed” and that “the management team were instrumental in the restrictive practices”.
The CQC also said when it visited, 14 Park View, the care home had been without heating and hot water for “five to six weeks”.
After the inspection the CQC said the care provider had immediately completed risk assessments and repaired its heating systems.
S.E.L.F (North East) has told the CQC it is looking into concerns raised by the reports. It will be closely monitored while in special measures and if the CQC finds improvements have not been made the regulator could take enforcement action and even close the homes.
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “An investigation is ongoing into a report of theft of money relating to a care home in Hetton-le-Hole.”
S.E.L.F. (North East) Limited did not comment when contacted by ChronicleLive.