Safeguarding – where is the accountability?
Caring Times Letters, June 2014
A few weeks ago, nearly two years after the death in hospital of a resident of a care home in Burnley (Palatine Lodge), the Coroner found natural causes as the reason for her death. There was no finding of fault in relation to her care preceding her sad death and no further investigation in relation to the home.
Much earlier, a police investigation had been wound up with no further action and a CQC investigation had found no issues to do with the quality of care in the home. A safeguarding investigation held by Lancashire County Council had similarly not identified any safeguarding fault on the part of the provider.
Shortly after the initial phase of the safeguarding investigation all of the other residents of the home were moved to alternative accommodation and all staff suspended. After the investigations requiring these twin dislocations were completed, the local authority gave the home a ‘green light’ to take residents again (the home being empty). But they couldn’t do so because the local media coverage the home and its staff received was so tainted that they were, in effect, already ‘guilty’ (the proprietor and manager were publicly accused of being murderers) and who would want to go to a home with, as it was by that time, such a bad name and how could it be possible to repair this ‘wrong’.
Well, it wasn’t possible. The traumatised staff and proprietor of the home had to wait until the Inquest to be free of the burden of guilt and the proprietor had to sell the business at a substantial loss (to a non-care purpose) just to be able to move on.
How can it be that all this time on – with what happened to the other residents, to the proprietor, to the manager, to the staff, to any family and friends of Mrs A who also may have had to travel this unhappy road to the Coroner’s verdict – that no fault is found in a provider with an established good name, those who made such consequential judgements en route are subject to no independent review or scrutiny or consequence?
When the Lancashire Care Association calls for the safeguarding processes to be fair and just this is what we mean. Where is the justice or fairness in this instance? Without the right checks and balances in place, the SME provider sector is too easily a secondary level victim. LCA calls for the West Sussex case issues – including a clear ‘duty of care’ to the provider – to be incorporated into local safeguarding processes.
There should also be ways of learning lessons openly from mistakes and feeding this back as part of learning processes. Someone must guard the guards and the best way is through the same ‘candour’ informing ‘overseeing’ processes as are expected in the care setting. We aim to pursue, through partnership and with stakeholder colleagues, the attainment of proper fair, balanced and effective processes for safeguarding adults so that independent sector providers are partners in, and fully engaged with, safeguarding. It is ‘everybody’s business’.
– Paul Simic, Lancashire Care Association