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30.04.14

Elderly care home abuse exposed in Essex

Serious failings in elderly care, including residents being ignored, taunted and abused, at the Old Deanery care home in Essex have been exposed by BBC Panorama. 

Following its investigation, one staff member has been sacked and seven suspended from one of England's largest care homes after footage showed some residents being taunted, roughly handled and even slapped. 

Allegations about the Old Deanery were first raised by 11 whistleblowers in August 2012. Essex County Council and the CQC investigated and an inspection found that staffing levels were “inadequate” and that some residents were also waiting too long for help. 

The Old Deanery was placed into special measures by Essex County Council after concerns were raised by a "whistleblower" which, in fact, turned out to be the BBC Panorama team. 

Essex County Council put Old Deanery into special measures for three months until concerns were addressed, but the undercover filming in 2013 found that many of the same sorts of issues continued. 

The fresh care scandal comes as the national regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has published figures showing that basic standards of care are not being met be a significant number of homes. 

More than a third of care homes which were given warning notices for being substandard continue not to meet basic standards, the CQC has revealed. The figures mean 406 care homes housing up to 15,533 vulnerable people are still failing to meet essential standards. 

Commenting ahead of today’s Panorama programme, ‘Behind Closed Doors: Elderly Care Exposed’¸ Andrea Sutcliffe, the CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “This programme raises important issues about the quality of care in care homes.  The care shown in the Panorama programme is unacceptable. My sympathy goes out to the people affected. I am angry that the good care we know is provided is undermined when people are failed in this way.” 

In November 2013, the Old Deanery was inspected again by the CQC and given a clean bill of health. However, the regulator went back two months ago, following Panorama's revelations, and found problems with staff shortages and delays in providing help. 

Sutcliffe noted: “We cannot always know what goes on behind closed doors but I am determined that our new approach will strengthen our ability to uncover poor care and take action when we need to.” 

A statement from the Old Deanery said: “We are shocked and saddened by allegations made by the BBC’s Panorama programme of inappropriate behaviour by some members of staff at The Old Deanery Care Home and apologise unreservedly for those failings. 

“These incidents involved a small number of staff and are not reflective of the high standards of care which we expect and demand from all of our team. As soon as the new management team was made aware of the allegations we took immediate action. We hired an independent law firm to carry out a full investigation as a matter of urgency. Eight staff were immediately suspended, and have not returned to work, pending a full inquiry. 

“The care worker responsible for slapping a resident has been summarily dismissed and other disciplinary proceedings will be completed shortly after the Panorama broadcast. Our priority remains the health and wellbeing of our residents and we have more than 200 dedicated members of staff who remain committed to the highest standards of care.” 

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