St Albans care home placed in special measures due to leadership failings

The Orchard nursing home in St Albans - photo Google Street View.

The Orchard nursing home in St Albans - photo Google Street View. - Credit: Archant

A St Albans care home has been placed in special measures because of “inadequate” leadership after a surprise inspection.

Although The Orchard Nursing Home on Camp Road was rated “good” at being effective and caring, the safety and responsiveness to patients “requires improvement”, the recent NHS CQC report stated.

Three inspectors turned up unannounced on August 8 - they spoke to eight patients, two relatives, 12 staff members, and the regional manager, a supporting manager and interim manager, as well as viewing seven people’s care and support information.

A summary of the report, released on September 26, reads: “People’s medicines were not always managed safely and staff needed further development in relation to fire safety procedures. There were also mixed views about staffing. Staff were recruited safely, however, references needed to be consistently verified.”

It does note that patients are treated with “dignity and respect”, and employees are “kind”.

Adding: “People’s care needs were not always met in a person-centred way and care plans were not always reflective of people’s current needs. People felt that the activities needed further improvement.”

An earlier inspection on April 18 also graded the leadership inadequate - because The Orchard has received this assessment twice in a row, it has now been put in special measures.

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This means it will be kept under review for six months, when it will be inspected again. If this assessment goes badly, it could be closed down.

Ninety-year-old Audrey Love used the care home for her advanced dementia before she was recently told she had to leave.

Her son and carer, Andy, praised the facilities and care, but said he was not surprised the report identified leadership issues: “The home has been marked down on being ‘well-led’ and in my opinion this hasn’t been helped with the number of changes of manager in the time my mother attended the home.

“In my mother’s time at The Orchard, there were several changes of managers but I feel you need a certain level continuation of management to achieve the highest level of care. When the management keeps changing you lose relationships, which is an important aspect when you have loved ones being cared for.”

But he described the facilities as first class, modern, warm and comfortable.

Andy thanked former manger Annie Murebwa for helping Audrey when she first arrived in June 2016: “My mother was still recovering from pneumonia and in very poor health when she arrived at The Orchard, and the care she received then was fantastic, it got her and us through a very difficult and worrying period.”

A spokesperson from The Orchard said they take the feedback seriously, but are disappointed. He stressed positive elements that were raised, such as the acknowledgment that residents are treated with respect and staff are kind: “The health and wellbeing of residents is our top priority, and where a small number of concerns have been raised, we have put in place an action plan to address them.

“The sole reason for the home being placed in special measures is in relation to the ‘well-led’ category and even here the CQC acknowledges improvements have been made. Following a rigorous recruitment process we have appointed a new full-time manager, who will be joining the home team soon.”

He added that they hope the CQC inspectors will visit again soon to see their improvement.

Andy is looking for a new day-care provider - email to help. He is happy to pay for the service.