Two care homes in Kent face closure after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it had identified a ‘serious’ lack of suitably skilled nursing staff, issues with care records, and poor leadership at the services.
The Woodlands and Fairfield Manor homes in Broadstairs were instructed to close by the social care regulator this week, following their failure to improve standards of care. Between them the homes provided care to 59 residents and employed 57 staff.
All residents have now been moved out of Fairfield Manor, which received a formal closure notice on Monday. The Woodlands home is expected to close next Tuesday.
Orchard Care, the care provider that took on managing the homes in October last year, said it was “very surprised” at the CQC’s decision. The company said it had been working to address several of the issues identified by the regulator, including staffing problems.
Adrian Hughes, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of adult social care in the south, said: “We have identified a number of serious issues at both Fairfield Manor and Woodlands, and these have led us to begin action to remove these homes from registration with CQC. We found a serious lack of suitably skilled nursing staff, and of care records, poor communication and poor leadership. All of these being right is vital in making sure that people’s needs are met.”
Hughes acknowledged that CQC’s move to close the homes “has caused upheaval for residents, their families and staff” but said the regulator had to act.
“In this case, the issues identified were serious enough to place people at significant risk of harm, and our primary interest has to be and is always in the safety and welfare of people living in these homes,” he said.
The CQC is now working with Kent County Council to ensure that residents are transferred safely to new homes. Council staff will remain at the Woodlands site until it closes.
Anne Tidmarsh, Kent’s director of older people and physical disability, said: “We have been working with the CQC and the provider to address serious concerns but unfortunately these areas of improvement have not been achieved by the care homes.
“We are continuing to work closely with the CQC, health colleagues and the provider to ensure a safe and dignified transfer for the residents.”
An Orchard Care spokesperson said: “These homes have had a long history of issues and we didn’t take over the management of them until last October. Our internal audits had identified the issues raised by the CQC, and we had begun to address these. However, the core of the issue is the extreme difficulty of recruiting nurses in Broadstairs to manage the complex needs of the residents. Despite increasing the rates of pay we could not compete with the local hospital.”
The GMB union, which represents care home staff, called on the regulator to defer the closure notices pending a full investigation.
Andy Prendergast, senior officer for the GMB, said: “We understand that there were serious failings in the homes but we think a full investigation is needed to determine why these issues have not been picked up previously.”
He added that the sudden closure meant that “a number of good and dedicated staff have lost their jobs through something that wasn’t their fault.”
The CQC’s full report on their findings will be published in due course.