A disability charity is facing questions from the care regulator after a third former resident of a care home died within a month of its sudden closure.
Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported concerns from disabled campaigners, relatives and former staff at Greathouse, near Chippenham, after it emerged that two of its former residents had died soon after being forced to leave the home, which closed on 27 July.
But it has now emerged that a third former resident – who was believed to have been terminally-ill – has also died after being moved to a nearby care home.
Another former service-user, a disabled woman who used the home’s respite service and was said to have been deeply upset at not being able to visit Greathouse (pictured), is also believed to have died since the closure, while as many as five or six former residents have had to be admitted for hospital treatment.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has now told DNS that it has asked Leonard Cheshire for information about the deaths.
Debbie Ivanova, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of adult social care, said yesterday (Wednesday): “Any death is a matter of concern – and all providers are obliged to notify us whenever a person has died in their care.
“Exactly how we follow up this information will vary according to the circumstances in each case.
“We are aware of the concerns in this case and we have asked [Leonard Cheshire] to provide us with further information – and we will decide what action we take once we are aware of the full circumstances.”
Last week, Anne Keat, whose son Richard was a resident at Greathouse and has now been moved to another home nearby, said she and other relatives were convinced that the deaths and other serious health problems were connected to the closure.
Although it is impossible to prove that the deaths and health problems were caused by the sudden closure of Greathouse and residents being forced to move to new homes, some research has suggested a link between involuntary relocation from residential homes and a negative impact on residents’ health.
Earlier this month, Leonard Cheshire was also criticised over its decision to sell 17 residential homes to other care providers and was accused of making “a complete mockery” of its supposed commitment to service-user involvement.
Three former Greathouse residents are believed to have moved to Leonard Cheshire homes that are among the 17 listed for sale next year and so are likely to go through a further period of uncertainty and upheaval.
Leonard Cheshire faced allegations of “insensitive and abusive” behaviour in May over the way managers from head office told disabled residents of Greathouse that they were about to close the home.
About 20 residents were given just three months’ notice of the charity’s plans to close Greathouse, with Leonard Cheshire blaming staffing problems, a drop in the demand for places and the cost of repairs.
Leonard Cheshire refused to say yesterday (Wednesday) if it was taking any responsibility for the deaths or if it would be investigating what had happened, claiming it would be “inappropriate” to do so.
In response to the death of the third former resident, a spokeswoman said: “We were sorry to hear this news and our thoughts are with [his] family.
“Any unexpected death is always reported and investigated by the relevant regulatory authorities so it is inappropriate to comment further at this point.
“In line with best practice, detailed support and care plans were in place for the former residents of Greathouse prior to their move.
“This included health checks and the transfer of records around complex conditions to the new providers.”
Wiltshire County Council said today (Thursday) that it would be contacting all the local authorities that had funded residents at Greathouse, after it learned of the deaths.
A council spokesman said: “There were 21 people who were residents/received support at Greathouse (of which we fund eight) so we are also making contact with all of the other funding authorities to speak to them about the situation.
“We already have regular direct contact with the people we fund and are not aware of any issues related to their ongoing care.”
He had said earlier, in a statement: “We are very sorry to hear that some former residents of Greathouse have passed away since the home closed, and our thoughts are with the families affected.
“We currently fund the care and support needs of eight people who were previously receiving care services at Greathouse [four residents and four who received respite and day services] and their needs are now being met by other providers.
“Although the closure notice period is out of our control, we always ask for as much notice as possible when homes have to close but this depends on the individual circumstances.
“As soon as we were made aware of the closure, we put processes in place to work with partners to ensure a smooth transition of residents to a new care provision of their choice.
“Our safeguarding team work to protect vulnerable people’s right to live in safety, free from abuse or neglect.
“We are in regular contact with the residents whose care we fund and we have not been made aware of any safeguarding issues related to them.
“We are happy to speak to anyone who has any concerns about the ongoing care of the former residents at Greathouse.”
A CQC spokeswoman said earlier this week that it was “unable to influence a provider’s decision to close a service” and that its priority was to ensure “consistently safe, effective, responsive and high quality care is given to people who use services and we will always take action when we consider it necessary to do so”.
She said CQC had been contacted “by some relatives and people who used the service raising concerns about the closure and the way and manner it was being handled.
“In response to these concerns we maintained regular contact with the provider, [Leonard Cheshire], and received regular updates from them notifying us of how and when people were moved to alternative accommodation.
“Our understanding is that the provider also worked with the various local authorities involved to ensure that suitable alternative accommodation was found and in addition provided support to people and their relatives, including discussing options and facilitating visits to their new homes prior to moving in.”
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