Sussex care home operator at centre of police probe loses appeal

Sussex Health Care
Sussex Health Care

A company which runs a string of care homes in Sussex has lost an appeal over conditions imposed on it by health regulators.

Sussex Health Care - currently at the centre of a police investigation following the deaths of 13 people at nine of its homes - appealed against conditions ordered by the Care Quality Commission.

But the tribunal ruled that it was right that the commission used enforcement powers to protect residents living in 18 of its care homes in Sussex following breaches of regulations. The company operates homes in Broadbridge Heath, Henfield, Billingshurst, Roffey, Warnham, Pease Pottage, Henfield, Uckfield and East Grinstead, as well as Horsham. Many of its residents have multiple learning disabilities and complex physical disabilities.

The commission ordered Sussex Health Care to provide reports on all of its services ‘until further notice’ after ‘finding a large number of concerns on successive inspections.’

Inspectors had ‘continued to find concerns about the quality of services and a failure to deal with the risks to people in their care,’ said the commission.

In dismissing Sussex Health Care’s appeal Judge Siobhan Goodrich said: “The matters found on inspection that gave rise to the imposition of the conditions were serious. Some improvements have been noted, in some areas and in some locations, on recent inspections, but there are still serious concerns about the services provided at the vast majority of the locations. In our view the concerns are real, entrenched and current.”

The judge said that the Care Quality Commission considered the conditions were necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of people living at the care homes.

Sussex Health Care said it was actively committed to addressing areas of concern.

Andrea Sutcliffe, the commission’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “Since April 2017, our inspections have found a pattern of poor care in many of the care homes provided by Sussex Health Care. The services have been deteriorating, people have been put at risk, and the provider has been slow to respond to incidents or deal with people’s healthcare needs.

“At one care home, we found a service that was unsafe because of risks from choking, lack of access to their call bells, falls, poor hydration management, improper use of pressure-relieving equipment, and poor staff practice that went unchallenged by the managers.”

There had been concerns at other homes about staff not responding appropriately to incidents, inconsistencies in the management of risks and a lack of staff training. Among conditions imposed on Sussex Health Care were requirments for the analyses of all incidents that resulted in harm to residents, unplanned hosital admissions and all deaths of residents and action taken by staff.

A spokesperson for Sussex Health Care said after the ruling: “We accept the tribunal findings that recognises the work and investment we are undertaking to continue to improve our services.

“The findings highlight the commitment of our senior management to deliver enhanced care and support and our capacity as an organisation to implement effective change. We are pleased to have cemented a strong relationship with the CQC through this process and will be working closely with them in the coming period.”