Agency nurses at 'inadequate' Ripon care home left residents at risk

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A Ripon care home has been placed into special measures following an over-reliance on agency nurses, some of whom were ‘not fit to practice’.

Inspectors visited Long Meadow Care Home on Harrogate Road in April following concerns over the competency of agency workers and ‘increasing numbers’ of medicine errors.

These fears were raised not only by North Yorkshire County Council and Clinical Commissioning Group but also the Coroner who raised concerns over poor treatment.

Since November 2015, more than 30 different agency nurses had been used with ‘no assurance’ of consistent care and treatment to each resident’s different needs.

Inspectors criticised the agency staff who had failed to meet the needs of the 29 people in the home and said clinical oversight left residents ‘at risk of harm’.

The report said: “Care was delivered in ways that placed people who used the service at risk of exposure to significant risks to their health, safety and welfare.

“Some people had experienced acute illnesses which should have resulted in emergency services being called but the nurses on duty did not recognise these problems.

“Medication errors had led to people not receiving their required medication and we found that people had experienced avoidable harm where action was not being taken to mitigate risks.

“The provider had failed to check that agency staff had the skills and competencies needed to deliver the care and treatment that people needed such PEG feeds, and stoma care.”

One week before the inspection was conducted, the managing director at Long Meadow, James Anderton decided to de-register as a nursing home.

Mr Anderton said that the decision had been taken to operate as a residential home after not being able to attract ‘quality nurses’ to provide care.

While he said he wouldn’t defend many aspects of the report, he said the over-reliance of agency nurses was a problem being experienced by homes all over the country.

He said: “In our 30-year history we have been an excellent care home but we are now struggling to attract quality nurses despite offering the best wages in the area.

"What we’ve had to do instead is use agency nurses at three times the rate and the quality of the care they offer is not always to a standard we expect.

"By the time this report came out we had already made a decision that we could not offer the excellent care services that we had done for three decades.

"We were devastated to have to take this decision but it’s a decision that’s being echoed around the country.

"Unfortunately it’s the people that need the care that are the hardest hit.”

Those who relied on care were moved out of the home following this decision but 12 out of the remaining 13 residents decided to remain at Long Meadow.

Mr Anderton said that was ‘testament’ to the home but admitted it was devastating for the residents, and their families, who had to be moved out.

He said: “We had a number of meetings with them and they were supportive of us as a care home. They understood the issues regarding nursing.

“We have now got a new head of care starting. We are also going to have a refurbishment on the home to make it better suited to the remaining residents.

“This is a pause for breath and a rethink of what we need to achieve.”