A HAMPSHIRE home care agency which left elderly clients unfed, unwashed and made rushed visits which resulted in vulnerable people missing medicines and fluids has shut down.

Grove Domiciliary Care, which had a contract with Hampshire County Council, had such a bad report by Government inspectors that it shut itself down.

Following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission, the Fareham-based firm was rated inadequate.

Inspectors also found Grove was guilty of several breaches of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

One senior county politician described the report as “the worst” he had ever read.

Following the report, Grove Domiciliary Care directors decided voluntarily to close the agency.

Among issues uncovered by inspectors were:

  • Clients were left without a wash or shower;
  • Staff regularly missed visits;
  • Workers employed without police checks;
  • Out of hours alarm system was often switched off;
  • Clients complained of being taunted by staff.

The report also found that Grove staff left clients “in unsafe, compromising positions”.

It added: “After speaking with people and their relatives as part of the inspection we continued to receive information of concern from people and their relatives about missed visits, late visits and only receiving a visit from one care worker when two care workers should have been scheduled.

“We also received information of concern about other unsafe manual handling practices, the lack of infection control practices carried out by care staff, missed medicines and potential abusive care practice; in which a safeguarding alert was raised to the local authority.”

The care agency provided care and support to people who live in their own homes in Fareham, Portchester, Warsash, Lee on the Solent, Stubbington, Gosport, and Portsmouth.

At the time of the inspection, the agency was caring for 181 elderly patients including people with dementia.

A high proportion of those clients were referrals from Hampshire County Council.

February’s report came after an inspection in June 2016 when the CQC found that there were not enough staff to meet people’s needs and keep them safe.

In June Grove was rated inadequate and put into special measures and given six months to improve.

The latest report stated that: “Due to insufficient staffing levels people would not always receive a visit or their visit would be late or reduced.

“As a result, people would not have their care needs met, be left in the same clothes for a number of days and would either go without a wash, shower or bath.

“People also told external professionals and the commission that staff would taunt them and one person stated that a staff member had applied cream to them in an intrusive way without the use of the appropriate equipment.”

Clients and their relatives also expressed concerns over staff timing and communication.

In the report one client was quoted as saying: “When the carer is off nobody lets me know if someone is coming or if they are going to be late.”

While one relative told the inspectors issues occurred when their regular carer was off sick or on leave.

They said: “Sometimes when the main carer has been away they [provider] have forgotten to sort out cover.”

The report also said that “appropriate recruitment checks had not been completed for all staff prior to starting work”.

According to the report one client was left hanging out of their bed another developed a sore on their skin as a result of a friction burn because they were being moved up their bed by the care workers using their bed sheet instead of the appropriate slide sheet which was in place.

The emergency out-of-hours service “was not responsive and often switched off” said the CQC report which also said that the out-of-hours service was switched off after 10pm.

“Complaints had been received but were not investigated or responded to and there was no learning from complaints,” said the report.

Hampshire County Council, which used Grove's services, said in a statement: “In cases where a care organisation is not providing the standards of care we expect, we will take the required action.

“This may include supporting providers to make necessary improvements to their services and where needed, working with regulators and other partners.

“Grove Care no longer provides care at home support for Hampshire County Council clients.

“Permanent care arrangements have been put in place for all our clients who previously received care from Grove, ensuring they receive the quality and standards of support they need to be able to continue to live independently in their own homes.”

However, the report also highlighted that the service had received compliments from four people and five relatives since the last inspection.

In response to the findings, Sally-Ann Biggs, a director of Grove Domiciliary Care, said: “Firstly, we would like to convey that we were very disappointed in the content of the inspection report.

“All of our staff care very much about our clients and we wanted to achieve good care and good outcomes for them.

“We took extensive action to improve the service by means of the re-training of all staff and we also withheld taking on new referrals to enable us to improve the quality of the service for the clients that we were already providing a service to.

“However, due to the large size of the service, we were unfortunately unable to achieve this outcome in the timeframe stipulated.”

The company stressed that it was "extremely devastated to have had to made the decision after all the hard work that we had put in to improve the service".

Grove Domiciliary Care was de-registered last month when the contract with Hampshire County Council was transferred to two other local providers and Grove staff transferred Caring for You Limited, which has the same directors as Grove Domiciliary Care.

Caring for You Limited, based in Portsmouth, was founded in 1988 and also provides support to the elderly in their own homes.

The company was recently rated by the Care Quality Commission as requiring improvement.

It said that service was not always effective, however it found that staff were caring and respected people’s privacy and provided enough staff to meet people’s needs.

The leader of Fareham Borough Council and Hampshire County Councillor Sean Woodward described the report as “the worst” he has ever read.

He added: “This company is charged with caring for extremely vulnerable people and the standards of care are simply unacceptable.

“They have made the right decision to close down but I would be concerned if the care that is being delivered under the direction of the same people who have been delivering totally inadequate care previously.”