Care home suddenly closed after residents found at ‘risk of serious harm’

A West Sussex care home where residents were at “risk of serious harm” has been closed down following enforcement action by the CQC.

Horncastle House at Sharpthorne, East Grinstead, which was run by Sussex Health Care (SHC), was removed from the care register following an inspection on September 13.

Debbie Ivanova, CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, said: “The standard of care that we found on our inspection left us in no doubt that some people living at Horncastle House were in danger of choking if we did not act quickly to protect them.  People were being exposed to immediate risk of serious harm or death because of the poor practice.”

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The 23 people using the service were told to leave immediately after the SHC withdrew staff support shortly following the CQC issued its enforcement notice.

Ms Ivanova added: “During an emergency closure, people do need to move but we recommend it is done in a planned and measured way. In this case the provider took the decision to withdraw their staff. That decision meant that the local authority had no alternative but to move people out that night, adding unnecessarily to the stress and worry for the families and for those involved.”

Following concerns raised by a relative, the CQC found that risks to people had increased since an inspection in August that rated the home Inadequate.

The CQC said the service was unsafe for the people living there, because of risks from choking, lack of access to their call bell, from falls, poor hydration management and improper use of pressure-relieving equipment.

The regulator added that there were not enough experienced and competent staff, saying the home had a heavy reliance on agency staff.

An SHC spokesperson said: “The decision by the CQC to remove the registration of Horncastle House left us with no choice but to close the home immediately.”

SHC said it had done all it could to support residents, including providing food, drink and welfare checks.

“The CQC were not present at the home at any time during the afternoon or evening, and at no time was there any indication that the service could be continued for longer to permit a more managed move – had there been, we would have of course supported this wholeheartedly,” the spokesperson added.

“The CQC’s decision left 23 frail and vulnerable elderly people – including one who was being discharged from hospital at the time – in an incredibly uncertain situation. Any comments from the CQC saying otherwise is misleading and only serves to deflect blame for its decision.

“We understand the CQC is entitled to go down this route but we argue strongly that someone from the CQC should have intervened to halt proceedings. We will be lodging a complaint regarding the decision to close the home.”

Police are conducting an investigation into 12 deaths at SHC services between April 2015 and December 2017 (see Probe widened into Sussex Health Care deaths).

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