Six arrested over alleged abuse of care home residents

Arrests under Mental Capacity Act follow five-month investigation into abuse of residents with dementia, sparked by whistleblower.

Picture credit: Eye Ubiquitous/Rex Features

Police have arrested six people on suspicion of abusing or neglecting residents of a nursing home.

The arrests follow a five-month investigation into alleged abuse of residents with dementia in the challenging behaviour unit at Hillcroft Nursing Homes – Throstle Grove, a 36-bed nursing home in Lancaster run by Hillcorth (Carnforth) Ltd.

The six have been arrested on suspicion of ill-treating or wilfully neglecting people under section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 – which applies to offences against people who lack capacity by those responsible for their care. Two men, aged 34 and 26 years, and four women, aged 26, 27, 53 and 59 years, were arrested yesterday and have been bailed until 15 November.

Offences dating back to 2010

Lancashire Constabulary said the alleged offences dated from December 2010 with the latest reported in February 2012, and concerned residents in the challenging behaviour unit, all of whom have advanced dementia.

The Care Quality Commission was informed about the alleged mistreatment of residents by an anonymous whistleblower in February, and reported the information to Lancashire Council.

The council subsequently placed an embargo on placements in the home – which is still in place – and held a strategy meeting, attended by the provider in May. In the same month the police began their investigation and the CQC inspected the home in response to the allegations.

The police said they were offering support to families of alleged victims, while the council said it had offered residents and their families the option of moving from the home – but none had taken up the offer.

“Together with our colleagues from NHS North Lancashire, we took immediate action to ensure that residents are safe and well cared for, and we are continuing to monitor the home very closely to make sure the proper standards of care are maintained,” said Steve Gross, the council’s director of commissioning.

Residents not adequately protected

The CQC inspection found service users were not adequately protected from the risk of abuse because the provider had failed to respond appropriately to allegations.

Inspectors found that Hillcroft was informed about allegations of abuse that took place in September 2011, but though internal action was taken, the CQC was not notified, as required by regulations, nor was Lancashire Council informed in its safeguarding capacity.

The CQC also found that the home was not meeting essential standards on staffing and assessing and monitoring the quality of care, and has required the provider to make improvements. It also inspected Hillcroft’s other four homes, all of which were not meeting at least two of the standards they were inspected against.

Enforcement action threatened by CQC

“We will be returning to all of the homes to check that the required improvements are made,” said a CQC spokesperson. “If we find that the required improvements have not been made we won’t hesitate to use our legal powers to ensure residents are receiving the service they are entitled to expect.”

A multi-agency significant incident learning review has been launched into the case to learn lessons and improve support for care home residents. It will run alongside the police investigation and any subsequent court case.

Improving your practice

Community Care is holding a conference on supporting people under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the deprivation of liberty safeguards on 21 November, and a conference on safeguarding adults in care homes and other residential settings on 4 December.

Book now for a discounted place.

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