A care home claiming “exceptional personalised care” for dementia patients has been put into special measures after inspectors found residents with faeces under their fingernails and food on their faces, wearing other people’s clothes and sleeping in dirty bedrooms.
Longfield residential home says its staff are “devoted to going above and beyond” for dementia patients, who “receive the best personalised care”.
“Our closely-knit team from management down all share the same passion to providing excellent care,” its website states.
But when officials from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) watchdog made an unannounced visit earlier this year they were alarmed to discover the “undignified” conditions dementia patients – all of them over 65 – were living in, a report reveals.
Staff said they would never put their own relatives in the home in Blackburn, Lancashire, while a manager admitted it appeared people’s feet “hadn’t been washed for months”. Patients at risk of weight loss were not being weighed as frequently as necessary, putting them at serious risk of malnutrition, according to a damning 14-page inspection dossier.
James White, of the Alzheimer’s Society, told the Guardian it was “utterly tragic” that people’s right to dignified, compassionate and even basic care were “ignored”, adding: “Every single person with dementia deserves to live their life with dignity, respect and simply to feel safe and looked after in the place they live.”
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: “Every older person living in a care home is entitled to expect consistently good care, delivered with kindness by staff who are equipped with the skills and time to do the job well. Unfortunately, this cannot be taken for granted at the moment.”
Following the inspection in August, Longfield has been rated inadequate overall, and rated inadequate on the individual measures of being safe, caring and well-led.
“Vulnerable people using this service rely on staff to help them live their lives with respect and dignity,” said Hayley Moore, CQC head of inspection for adult social care. “This was not the case for people living at Longfield.”
The CQC has ordered Longfield to make urgent improvements. Its unannounced inspection followed concerns over the lack of personal care people were receiving, staffing levels, cleanliness of the home, and infection prevention and control risks.
“When we visited Longfield … we were concerned at how dirty the home was and how undignified people’s experience of living here was,” said Moore. “Our inspectors found that staff were not keeping people clean and well presented. We saw people with food on their clothes and faces, and the new manager told us that people’s feet, looked as if they hadn’t been washed for months.
“We found dirty bedrooms, bathroom, furniture and bedding. The laundry room contained a sluice area that was so dirty staff were using a toilet area and one resident’s bedroom as a separate laundry area instead.
“We heard from one relative that their family member had gone to hospital with faeces under their fingernails, wearing another person’s clothes with holes in, another person’s slippers that were too big and other people’s clothes in their bag.”
Moore said patients did not always enjoy privacy. “One bedroom had no curtain on the window and inspectors saw someone going in and out of other people’s bedrooms, even when someone was in there,” she said. “Everyone deserves their own private space and should not be expected to put up with these conditions.
“Aside from the poor experience people had living in this service, it also wasn’t safe. Longfield didn’t have enough staff to meet people’s needs, so used agency staff that were unreliable and didn’t have the appropriate training to look after people.”
Inspectors found staff were not always wearing PPE correctly and had not always had training in infection prevention and control – putting residents at risk. Some staff had not had regular Covid tests, but were still working, again putting residents at risk.
Longfield Residential Home told the Guardian it was under new management and insisted it had made “significant improvement”.
A spokesperson said: “The home implemented a new management system a week prior to inspection and was undergoing significant renovations. The home has been regularly liaising with CQC and Blackburn with Darwen adult social care services. The home has made significant improvement under its new management.”
Moore said: “During our visit, the provider started to address our concerns and is continuing to make further improvements, to ensure people are living in a safe and clean environment. We will continue to monitor the home closely and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”