The shocking state of elderly care in Britain is exposed today by undercover footage showing patients being abused, taunted and even slapped by staff supposed to be caring for them.
Residents at a care home in Essex were physically assaulted, ignored and left in their own excrement for hours according to an investigation by BBC One’s Panorama. Mistreatment was also uncovered at another care home in South London, where two care workers were convicted of common assault for how they handled a patient.
In total 15 people have now been suspended at the two homes and eight sacked.
Harrowing images captured by hidden cameras echo the abuse uncovered three years ago at Winterbourne View, a private Hampshire hospital whose patients with learning disabilities were assaulted.
The fresh care scandal comes as the national regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), publishes startling 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.
Undercover filming at the Old Deanery, a 93 bed residential care home mainly for the elderly in Braintree, found residents were being mistreated more than a year after whistleblowers first reported concerns.
Allegations about the Old Deanery were first raised by 11 whistle-blowers in August 2012. Essex County Council and the CQC investigated and an inspection found that staffing levels were “woefully inadequate” and that some residents were also waiting too long for help.
To see if things had improved, Panorama sent reporter Alex Lee to work 36 undercover shifts last year with a hidden camera. She filmed a woman with dementia who was partially paralysed being slapped by a care worker who had previously been the recipient of complaints. Other care workers were also caught on camera repeatedly mocking, taunting, and bullying the same patient.
A resident with a terminal illness had her cries for help ignored as she sought help to go to the toilet. Another bed-ridden resident with a chronic illness left lying in his own excrement for an hour after two care workers turned off his call bell without helping him. A man in his eighties was mockingly called a “bitch” over and over again by a care worker, after he became agitated and called her that because of how she was cleaning his private parts.
In November 2013, while Ms Lee was still undercover, 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, delays in providing help and one patient “crying and distressed” because they couldn’t find someone to take them to the toilet.
Andrea Sutcliffe, the CQC’s new Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care said: “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.”
Since 2011, 158 homes have closed following action taken by CQC. Ms Sutcliffe added: ‘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.“
Anglia Retirement Homes Ltd, which changed ownership in November 2013, runs the Old Deanery. A spokesman for the care home said they “apologised unreservedly” for the failings uncovered in the Panorama programme. He added: “As soon as new management was made aware of the allegations we took immediate action… eight staff were immediately suspended and have not returned to work, pending a full enquiry. The care worker responsible for slapping a resident has been summarily dismissed and other disciplinary proceedings will follow shortly after the Panorama broadcast.”
In a second sting, Vanessa Evans, 43, used a hidden camera to uncover the poor care of her grandmother, Yvonne Grant, at Oban House in Croydon, South London. In footage taken in December 2012, Ms Grant is seen lying in her bed calling for a nurse 321 times and pleading for the toilet 45 times in just over an hour before anyone checks on her. When a care worker finally arrives, she is told to use her incontinence pad.
Care workers then try to make her walk to the toilet, despite her having been immobile for two years. They eventually drop her roughly back onto her bed, still without having been to the toilet. She was eventually taken to the toilet two and half hours after she first asked for help. Two staff have been convicted of common assault for the treatment of her, though one is appealing.
Ms Grant’s granddaughter, Ms Evans, told The Independent: “She used to say ‘They’re really nice when you’re here but as soon as you’re gone they’re horrible’… There was no bedside manner. She was completely ignored and not spoken to when staff were in the room. On the film, staff were commenting on a bruise she had and noticed she was bleeding from pressure sores that needed a dressing. Five hours later the nurse hadn’t put a dressing on.”
“The night staff were washing residents in their beds at five in the morning while they were trying to sleep. It would scare the hell out of her; they’d pull back the covers and start washing her with a flannel. She hated the indignity of it.
“It was so distressing. I was so angry and numb from it. I just couldn’t believe what she was being put through.
“It wasn’t just one member of staff, there were three occasions where we put the camera in and there were issues each time. There was rough handling. One guy took her to bed when he was supposed to be taking her to the toilet and then back to the day room to watch TV. He just grabbed her ankles and swung her onto the bed. He was laughing when he did it and then he let the door slam and left her in darkness.
“Before she went into that home I looked in quite a few and some I thought were absolutely disgraceful, but this seemed the best of a bad bunch. I’ve said to my children they’ve got to put me down before they put me in one of those places. I’ve got no trust in care homes whatsoever now.”
A spokesperson for HC-One, which owns Oban House, said: “The secret filming that took place in 2012 shows shocking and distressing failings. We do not tolerate this kind of behaviour. We apologised unreservedly to the late Mrs Grant and her family, and we remain deeply sorry for the distress that was caused. This should never have happened.
“As soon as we became aware of the situation we acted immediately to notify the Care Quality Commission, the local Safeguarding Team and the Police. We suspended and later dismissed the staff involved.”