This week the Government published the final report on the Winterbourne care home. The report follows an investigation by the BBC who filmed residents of Winterbourne care home in Bristol, being subjected to a torrent of abuse by their carers. Some residents were soaked in water, some had their hair pulled or eyes poked and most were subjected to awful verbal abuse including one poor girl being told she would have her face grated off with a cheese grater. This is just to name a few incidents, the full BBC documentary is on you tube for those who want to be utterly appalled by the abuse committed by the carers.
Following this disgraceful abuse 11 staff from the care home received prison sentences, five of which were suspended meaning if they breach the terms of their probation period they will activate their suspended sentences and be sent to prison.
The Government report proposes that by spring 2013, the Department of Health should set out proposals to strengthen the accountability of directors and senior managers of companies like Castlebeck (who owned Winterbourne Care Home). This means that possible new criminal legislation could follow which would serve to strengthen corporate accountability meaning that the owners of care homes could be legally responsible for the criminal actions of their workers.
It is also proposed that the Care Quality Commission will strengthen inspections and regulation of hospitals and care homes, including unannounced inspections. It is proposed that a new NHS and local government-led joint improvement team will be created to lead and support this transformation. Why the CQC cannot oversee this is anyone’s guess, my own guess is that the Government want to seize another opportunity to expand yet another department/team but that`s another story!
The senior care workers at Winterbourne were earning approximately £16,000 per year and had no health care qualifications whatsoever. Some more junior care workers only earned the minimum wage. The average resident at Winterbourne paid £3,500 per week for their residency and the annual turnover of the care home was £3.7 million. Judge Neil Ford QC who sentenced the carers of Winterbourne stated that ‘the hospital was run with a view to profit and with a scandalous lack of regard to the interests of its residents and staff ‘.
Care homes for those who suffer from severe disabilities are not the only care homes in the news of late. Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest, Near Lancaster and Morecambe (Lancashire) has also been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. In October 2012 6 arrests were made following allegations over abuse of elderly care home residents and on 12th December 2012 the CPS decided to prosecute the individuals concerned under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and Mental Health Act 1983 for mistreatment and neglect.
It seems that there is a clear issue in respect of the quality of staff that care homes attract. Generally speaking, if training is not a requirement for a job then this opens the floodgates for anybody to apply regardless of their experience or qualifications. I have no doubt that there are many carers in the UK who carry out their jobs with due diligence and a big heart but sadly it seems that many carers are unqualified, untrained and couldn’t care less about the vulnerable people they are being paid to care for. The overall responsibility for these unqualified and untrained carers must surely rest with the owners of the care homes themselves. If a company has a turnover of £3.7million and a low overhead in terms of staff costs it would seem sensible to predict that the profitability of that company is large enough to support staff training. Clearly this poses the question: ‘why can’t some of the profits generated be re-directed for staff training or at least staff monitoring? The reason sadly is clearly greed!
I am sure we all await the implementation of these proposals with great anticipation. Hopefully the events that unfolded at Winterbourne will never be repeated, but if they are then one would hope that the owners of the care home will also be held responsible.
All information is correct on the date of posting.