Mid Wales

Elderly people were harmed by care firm, report finds

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Media captionThe report found that between April and August there had been 73 referrals of neglect in the care being provided by Reach

A home care firm was responsible for the neglect and harm of vulnerable and elderly people in Powys, a report by a watchdog has found.

Failures in the service by Reach, which took over the contract in April, led to some people being admitted to hospital.

Reach, which no longer has the contract, apologised and said it had struggled with staffing "challenges".

Powys council cabinet member Darren Mayor said the authority apologises "whole heartedly" for what happened.

One of the people admitted to hospital was was left on the floor after a fall because a home visit was missed.

In the report by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), 14 breaches of care regulations in Reach's service were found.

Reach started working in Powys earlier this year after a controversial decision by Powys council to end the contracts of 20 home care providers in favour of new contracts with four companies, including Newport-based Reach.

At the time, the authority claimed it would be simpler, deliver continuity of care and also save money.

But it cancelled Reach's contract in September after complaints and claims it was "shambolic".

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Powys council ended the contracts of 20 home care providers in favour of new contracts with four companies

At the time, the company admitted it had had "a problematic transition process".

In the report by the watchdog, it found that between April and August, there had been 73 referrals of neglect in the care being provided by Reach made by staff at Powys council - 12 of these were jointly investigated by Dyfed-Powys Police.

In addition, CSSIW received nine other examples of people being placed at risk because of poor care delivery.

Image copyright CSSIW

The findings:

  • Reach's services in Powys were "inconsistent and unreliable"
  • People were being "lost" in the rota system with missed home visits
  • Staff had to travel long distances between calls which made them late for other calls. Some travelled from Newport for appointments
  • People were put at risk because inexperienced carers who lacked skills went to people with complex needs. One person was often asked how to set up their own breathing equipment as staff did not known
  • Staff had not completed mandatory training including food hygiene, medication, handling and infection control
  • A number had been put at risk due to medication errors
  • One relative said the inconsistent care their loved one had received had left them "feeling anxious and vulnerable". Another said her physical, emotional and mental health "have all deteriorated in this period together with her overall spirit and zest for life"

Examples of poor care led to two people being admitted to hospital.

Another received only one out of every four scheduled visits and was left without food and medication.

Bethan Evans, corporate director of Reach, offered her apologies and said people were let down, while the company was "significantly understaffed" from the outset.

"Our first and biggest mistake was to under-estimate the particular challenges we would face in taking over this contract," she said.

Ms Evans added: "We were simply unable to deliver the amount and quality of care expected of us, until we had overcome those staffing challenges."

Reach said the service it had handed over was now performing well.

Powys cabinet member Mr Mayor, who is responsible for adult services, said the CCSIW report "makes for very difficult reading that reflects the experiences and poor quality of service that some service users received in the north of Powys".

He added: "We deeply regret that service users did not receive the highest quality of care that they deserve."

Powys council said it would "take every opportunity to learn for the future to ensure that the highest possible service delivery is maintained".

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