Northern Ireland

Care home residents faced 'inhuman and degrading treatment'

DUNMURRY MANOR

An investigation into a Belfast care home has found a "horrific catalogue of inhuman and degrading treatment".

Northern Ireland's Commissioner for Older People investigated care and safety of residents with dementia at Dunmurry Manor care home.

It found many residents "spending their last few months living in appalling circumstances".

The home is owned by Runwood Care Homes, a company based in England.

A company spokesperson said its managing director, Logan Logeswaran, had resigned following the findings of the report, but Mr Logeswaran later told BBC News NI that he was stepping down for "personal reasons" that were not linked to the report.

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Media captionCommissioner for Older People condemns care home conditions

Northern Ireland's Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, said the report outlined a "disturbing picture where there were many significant failures in safeguarding care and treatment".

This led to many of the residents "not receiving adequate protection for prolonged periods of time".

At the launch of the report, Mr Lynch and the independent panel that drew up the report said that the RQIA (Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority), the body that regulates care in Northern Ireland, was "not fit for purpose".

'Distress'

The RQIA said it recognised the distress of residents carers and families reflected in the report.

"We accept that only a small number of Dunmurry Manor relatives chose to contact RQIA with their concerns," it said.

"We have taken steps to increase our visibility in care settings, to ensure we hear and take account of these voices."

The Runwood Homes Group has issued an apology:

"I am truly sorry we failed to deliver the high standards of care our residents at Dunmurry Manor had the right to expect and that, because of those failures, they and their families have had to endure this distressing experience," chief executive Gordon Sanders said.

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Image caption The report concerned the care of residents with dementia

The company said it had put a new Northern Ireland senior management team in place in August 2017 and that families could be assured that corrective action has been taken:

"We are stringently enforcing the very highest standards of operating, technology and service delivery.

We guarantee that any resident or family member with concerns can make easy direct contact with senior directors."

'Comprehensive response'

The Department of Health said it would study the report very carefully and provide a formal, comprehensive response.

"We published the two independent assessments this week, providing assurance to residents and their families on current care standards," it said,

"The second report detailed the work by RQIA to ensure the implementation of necessary improvements."

A joint statement was issued by the South Eastern, Southern, Northern, and Belfast Health and Social Care trusts that said they would be studying the report to ensure that lessons are learnt.

Dunmurry Manor opened in 2014 but repeated inspections found problems while family members and former employees also raised concerns.

Image caption Paricia Clydesdale says her mother's human rights were violated

Patricia Clydesdale's 92-year-old mother, Esther Hamilton, was at Dunmurry Manor for a short period between October and December 2016 when she was recovering a serious fall.

Mrs Hamilton suffered a series of indignities as her daughter explained:

"She wasn't being washed properly, she wasn't being attended to when she pushed the buzzer, she'd had a few falls which we knew hadn't been recorded.

"She had complained to us as a family that people were coming into her room during the day and at night."

'Rights violated'

Mrs Clydesdale said her mother was left frightened by the whole experience and wanted to come home.

"Her human rights were certainly violated, things we take as standard rights, and her dignity was nil."

Runwood now operates 11 care homes in NI. Last year Ashbrooke Care Home was closed after an urgent inspection found a number of issues.

Last year the RQIA said the home was not meeting the required standards and stopped new admissions.

However, it is now operating free from restrictions and accepting new residents.

In February 2017, Eddie Lynch said he was using his formal investigative powers for the first time to begin an inquiry into the home.

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Image caption The commissioner described the report's findings as 'deeply concerning'

Describing his findings as "deeply concerning", the investigation also found reports of "evidence of physical and sexual assault on female residents" and of residents leaving the home unnoticed.

The overall situation was compounded by a "failure of responsible bodies to act quickly and comprehensively".

The commissioner said it had become clear as his investigation went on that none of the bodies involved in regulating the home, including the RQIA, were aware of the full scale of the issues being experienced by the residents:

"My investigation found that many of these terrible incidents occurred during periods of time when the regulator, the RQIA, reported the home to be meeting the required standards of care.

"Despite the regulator carrying out 23 inspections in a 39-month period, they did not find the extent of the problems experienced by many residents."

59 recommendations

The commissioner's report makes 59 recommendations - among them that an adult safeguarding bill should be introduced without delay and that all staff in care settings should be trained in the implications of human rights on their work.

On the issue of care and treatment, it backs a recommendation made in the recent report into hyponatraemia-related deaths that trusts should ensure healthcare workers know what is required from them when reporting serious adverse incidents (SAIs).

Failure to report an SAI, it says, should be a disciplinary offence, it says.

Mr Lynch also backed the call for a statutory duty of candour also made in the hyponatraemia report.

Open and honest

This would mean that every health and social care organisation and everyone working for them would have to be open and honest in all their dealings with their patients and the public.

This would, Mr Lynch said, "help address some of the concerns emerging from this investigation."

In an unexpected move the Department of Health this week published two reports, one of which assessed the home's current standards of care and said "during the visits Dunmurry was assessed as being a safe place for people to live quality lives."

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