A home care provider contracted by the local authority to care for elderly and vulnerable people across Stamford and Bourne has been heavily criticised by a healthcare regulatory body.
In a report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Bloomsbury Home Care – The Butterfield Centre was said to be unsafe, while it was deemed to ‘require improvement’ to make the service effective, caring, responsive and well led.
In some cases, service-users were not getting help to take their medicines on time, nor being helped to eat and drink enough.
However, the chief executive of Bloomsbury, Nick Christodoulou, says the report’s criticisms refer to the six months after the company took on the contract for Lincolnshire County Council, in September 2015, and problems have now been resolved.
The CQC inspection, carried out in July, found the service to be unsafe because staff had not always been provided at the right time to care for people, medicines were not safely managed and background checks had not always been completed before new staff had been employed.
Inspectors found that staff had not received satisfactory training and support, and service-users ‘had not always been supported to eat and drink enough’.
However, they also said that staff took decisions in user’s best interests when they were unable to make decisions for themselves, and that staff ensured people had access to healthcare services they needed.
Bloomsbury fell short in the ‘caring’ element of the report because people were not always treated with kindness, compassion and respect, nor was confidential information consistently kept private.
A key issue reflected by the CQC was there being enough staff to cope and the knock-on impact this had with carers being late to their calls.
When inspectors spoke to service-users, one said: “Most of the staff are fine when they’re here, but getting them here on time is the problem. They’re often late or very late and then I’m not sure if they’re going to turn up at all as no one contacts me from the office. Then to cap it all they can sometimes turn up too early without warning.”
Another person said: “They are usually late but I get used to it and so I get myself up and ready if this happens.”
Another told the CQC: “Although it’s a bit better now when Bloomsbury first took over in Stamford in August and September 2015 the service can only be described as desperate. Actually, to all intents and purposes there was no recognisable service. Even now staff will often be late and then the visits are short and rushed so that the staff can get onto the next person.
“It’s plain for everyone to see that the service doesn’t have enough staff or doesn’t organise them well because otherwise the visits wouldn’t be in such a muddle.”
Bloomsbury is contracted by Lincolnshire County Council to provide care for around 250 people in the Stamford and Bourne area – a contract which is for a minimum of three years with the option to extend for up to two further years.
Mr Christodoulou, chief executive of Bloomsbury, admitted he was “disappointed” by the CQC’s findings, but said the issues arose from a serious staffing issue right at the start of the contract.
As is common when new providers take over local authority contracts, staff were expected to transfer to Bloomsbury from the previous provider under TUPE regulations.
However, a large number of staff instead remained with the provider to work in the Peterborough area – leaving Bloomsbury with a shortfall of around 60 carers.
Mr Christodoulou said: “We couldn’t see that happening. It came down to something like 20 staff with 2,200 hours of work.
“People were working flat out. Some calls were very late which led to a lot of problems.
“We have done a massive recruitment of staff through the area of Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings, recruiting 100 staff since the September contract so the situation is much better now.”
A spokeswoman for the county council said it is helping Bloomsbury improve its service.
She added: “We embedded a member of staff from our commercial team temporarily in the team at Bloomsbury to provide constant support and advice. The report which was published in August was from an inspection undertaken even earlier in the year and there have been significant improvements made by the provider since then.”
Pete Sidgwick, assistant director for adult care at the county council, said: “We monitor our contracts carefully and take the safety and wellbeing of people receiving care very seriously.”
A spokeswoman for the CQC said the inspection was carried out after receiving information that Bloomsbury was not meeting national standards.
She added: “Our inspectors will return again to check on whether the required improvements have been made at the service.
“In the meantime, we continue to work closely with the local authority with regard to this service and we are awaiting an action plan from the provider
“It is vital that Bloomsbury Home Care - The Butterfield Centre takes action to address the concerns we have identified.
“The provider has a responsibility to ensure that people are safe and protected from the risk of harm.
“We will inspect again and if action has not secured improvements we will have no alternative but to consider taking enforcement action.”