Northumberland County Council-run care service rapped over PPE, medicines safety and Covid-19 testing

A Northumberland County Council-run care service for people who have learning disabilities or autism has been rapped by the Care Quality Commission.

A new report rates the Wansbeck Supported Living Service (WSLS) “requires improvement” and criticises failings when it comes to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), the safe management of medicines, and staff undertaking mandatory Covid-19 training. Concerns around levels of staffing – with the sector facing a recruitment crisis – were also raised by the CQC inspection team.

The Bedlington-based service offers personal care support to people living in specialist bungalows, while also providing outreach support in the community. At the time of the inspection – June 15 this year – twelve people received care.

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The inspectors rated the service “requires improvement” across all five areas measured: safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. In the report, the team highlighted how concerns could risk the safety of service users.

They wrote: “The service was not able to fully demonstrate how they were meeting the underpinning principles of ‘right support, right care, right culture’ due to the lack of knowledge by staff about this guidance. Medicines were not always managed safely and staff were not following safe infection prevention and control (IPC) measures during the inspection.

“Risk assessments were completed for people. However, these had not been reviewed at the frequency identified by the provider. Systems were in place to safeguard people from abuse. People were supported to maintain their home environment and had personalised their home to reflect their taste and preferences.”

In terms of safety, the report also highlights that staff were not wearing appropriate PPE and: “The registered manager and provider were unaware of government guidance which detailed the requirements for staff to use PPE in adult social care settings.”

Appropriate Covid-19 testing measures did not appear to have been in place, the report also suggest, with a lack of adherence to “bare below the elbow” policies – that staff do not wear rings or watches or paint nails – was not enforced. “Systems have been introduced” to fix these issues, the report added.

Staffing in the social care sector is an issue, and it has contributed to the problems at WSLS. The inspectors continued: “The service did not always have enough appropriately skilled staff to meet people’s needs.” However, more positively, the CQC team recognised that staff knew the service users well and worked to help them overcome communication needs.

The CQC also said WSLS had a “positive culture” and worked in a “person-centred” way. However the inspectors also identified that care plans were not being reviewed regularly enough.

The CQC has now requested Northumberland County Council comes up with an “action plan” to “understand what they will do to improve the standards of quality and safety”.

A Northumberland County Council spokesperson said: “We have studied the inspection report in detail and although we are disappointed that the CQC has rated the service as requiring improvement, we are pleased the Inspectors said that although they identified some shortfalls, they did not identify any impact to people.

“Inspections like these play an important part in helping us maintain the best possible services for the people we support, and action plans are already in place to implement the inspectors’ recommendations.”

The council also highlighted the positives in the report and added: “Importantly they said that throughout the inspection they observed positive interactions where staff always demonstrated kind and caring attitudes towards people, that staff uphold people’s privacy and dignity, and that people who use the service and their families told them staff are kind and caring.”