THREE care homes for elderly dementia patients used by Southend Council have failed to meet a series of basic requirements set down by a health watchdog.

West House, in St Vincent’s Road, Westcliff, St Martin’s Residential Home, in Imperial Avenue, Westcliff, and Catherine Miller House, in Old Leigh Road, Leigh, failed Care Quality Commission inspections.

The failures have prompted concerns over the council’s choice of private homes.

Catherine Miller House, where a former boss nearly severed a care worker’s finger in a row over pay, failed in five areas.

It had already been twice investigated by the council over patient safety concerns, but the authority still continued to use it.

New Southend Council leader Ron Woodley, Independent councillor for Thorpe ward, plans to raise concerns with senior officers.

He said: “The new administration will take full knowledge of this and want to improve the care of elderly residents to the best possible standards.


Failings: Catherine Miller House

“We will make sure this is looked upon and talk to the directors responsible. Any issue over the care of elderly people in Southend is a major concern to me.”

Catherine Miller House was also criticised by the commission for withholding details of two safety concerns from the council – a patient suffering urine problems and concerns about the behaviour of a member of staff.

Both incidents should have been raised under a “safeguarding”


Catherine Miller House also had problems with staff levels and training and dealing with patients who could not consent to treatment.

The home has blamed the problems on not havingamanager at the time due to “ill health”.

However, as the Echo reported in April, its former boss, Andrew Stern, had to step down after being convicted of wounding with intent after smashing a china cup on an employee’s finger in a row over pay last July.

In April, he received a two year suspended prison sentence for the attack on Glen Daltrey, 32. Meanwhile, in September 2012, the commission issued a formal warning to Catherine Miller House over its record keeping in connection with medicines.

However, it passed the criteria this time.


No comment: West House

West House failed to meet six categories the commission inspects, while St Martin’s – run by the Southend Darby & Joan organisation – was deficient in five areas.

West House was found to have patients with bedsores and inspectors found staff struggled to manage the dangerous skin conditions, while drugs were given incorrectly or at the wrong time.

Inspectors saw a patient ignored by staff and others given potentially embarrassing treatment in a communal lounge next to other residents.

Inaccuracies with patient records were also flagged up, while there were not enough staff and those there were not fully trained.

At St Martin’s, there were a series of failings identified, including anomalies in record keeping of medication given and one patient receiving a triple dose.

Dementia patients were not always asked for consent before being treated and laws around the treatment of those with no mental capacity to give consent were broken.


Under scrutiny: St Martins

There were also staff shortages at the home and new patients were not always assessed for their treatment needs – in one case for up to nine days.

Staff, patients and visitors to the building were also at risk as fire safety improvements previously identified had still not been done.

Despite the failings, West House passed two inspection areas, while Catherine Miller House and St Martins each passed three.

Council chiefs will work with owners of the homes to improve standards.

Sue Hadley, Southend Council’s head of service, said: “We take the welfare, stability and quality of life of our older residents very seriously.

“We regularly review reports published by Care Quality Commission.

“Any issues or shortfalls that have been identified are of concern to us and we would work with the provider to make sure the necessary improvements are made.

“But these are people’s homes, so while we take any concerns very seriously and would of course reconsider our use of facilities if we felt it was necessary, it is not appropriate to make knee-jerk reactions without first working with these providers.”

Politicians fear for the future of elderly care across Southend if plans to shut the authority’s last two homes go ahead.

Echo: Campaigners hold a vigil outside Priory House

Vigil: Campaigners fight for council care homes

Southend Council agreed last year to shut Priory House, in Prittlewell Chase, Westcliff, and a second home – Delaware House, in Maplin Way North, Shoebury.

The are the last two publicly run homes in the borough.

Social services has had to increasingly rely on the private sector and already uses 67 privately-run homes across the borough to house some elderly people.

But there are now concerns over how well the council inspects homes it uses after it gave St Martin’s Residential Home a 97.6 per cent “good rating”

at its last inspection, which contrasts with the latest findings of the Care Quality Commission. The number of private places would rise if the homes close as expected, and the latest inspections have caused concern over the standard of future care.

Echo: Empty – councillor Ron Woodley stands outside the unit which has cost Southend Council £100,000 in lost rent revenue since it was built six years ago

Concerns: Ron Woodley

New council leader Ron Woodley said he was seeing if it was possible to reverse the Tory decision to close them.

He said: “We are going to review all key Conservative policies made and the care homes closure decision will be among them.”

The boss of St Martins says an action plan detailing improvements will be presented to the Care Quality Commission.

Charles Cormack, boss of Southend Darby and Joan Organisation, which runs three care homes in the borough, said patient welfare and safety was his paramount concern.

He stressed St Martin’s, in Imperial Avenue, Westcliff, had only failed five areas due to paperwork issues.

He said: “Regulation around care homes is changing all the time and we are now subject to inspections by Southend Council, the commission, Health and Safety Executive, environmental health and food standards.

“All the issues raised have been in relation to paperwork, but this has to be balanced with customer care.”

Echo: Charles Cormack outside Peaceful Place

Hitting back: Charles Cormack

He said: “Inspectors will vary in how much they will take the rules to the letter.

“The home was found to have failed because not all patients had given consent to care because it had not done mental capacity assessments on all people who had sensor mats in their rooms.

“These are used to show if a resident is out of bed or moving about, in case they have been assessed as being at risk of falls.

“A social worker would have to come out and assess their mental capacity and that had not happened in all cases, as this requirement only came in this year.

“But if someone had fallen beforeamat had gone in place, we would also have been criticised, so sometimes the rules around paperwork get in the way of common sense. In a way, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

He accepted a patient had received a triple dose of medication, but said it was a one off and the employee had since undergone training.

Mr Cormack said: “There were some minor errors around recording of when medication was given, but this is only when staff were distracted by challenging behaviour from a resident.

“If you had a care home with no minor errors such as this, I would question the validity, as it would tell me someone had gone back over and made amendments.”

Staffing issues, he added, were down to sickness after the rota was done.

The home was criticised for failing to prepare care plans for all patients within 24 hours of arrival, and in one case it took nine days.

But he said care staff needed time with residents to tailor a care plan and any delay would not prevent their care or treatment taking place.

He said the outstanding fire safety issues were minor and were being dealt with when possible.

A spokesman for Catherine Miller House said a new manager was now in position and hoped to sort its issues swiftly.

He said: “The home was without a registered manager for a while following the sudden departure of the previous manager through ill heath.

“There has been a change in management style, which was reflected in part by new care recording documentation.

“Teething problems were reflected in the inspection.

“In the most recent inspection, minor shortfalls recorded were related to paperwork, rather than direct care.”