Whistleblower raises alarm at trouble-hit nursing home

Clifton Nursing Home in Belfast has been re-investigated by the watchdog
Clifton Nursing Home in Belfast has been re-investigated by the watchdog

A NURSING home at the centre of critical inspections over the past eight years has been re-investigated after further concerns were raised about care standards.

Clifton Nursing Home in north Belfast received an unannounced inspection from the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) following a tip-off about poor care of dementia patients.

The well-known facility, which is located close to Carlisle Circus, was banned from taking in new admissions two years ago after it failed to act on repeated warnings about appalling practices - including inappropriate restraint of vulnerable residents.

New owners took over the facility in 2014 and admitted they had become heavily reliant on agency nurses and that staff morale had suffered - but that a "robust" plan was in place to make improvements.

However, a watchdog probe last December found serious shortcomings relating to the storage of medicines and "undignified" care of incontinent residents.

Risks around hydration of vulnerable residents were also flagged up during the seven-hour inspection, with the RQIA team discovering inadequate recording by nurses of each residents' fluid intake, while there was a lack of liquids available in the dining area.

A manager at the home also admitted that medications and cream belonging to previous residents were still stored - a practice that breached infection control measures.

The findings were linked to a specialist dementia unit in the home and led to a "serious concerns meeting" with senior staff shortly before Christmas.

An RQIA spokesman told the Irish News that the home provided an "action plan" to address the risks and a follow-up inspection was positive.

However, he added that the latest spot inspection in April found problems with care in a different part of the home.

"Separate issues relating to staffing arrangements and care planning in other units within the home required attention," the RQIA spokesman said.

"RQIA held a further meeting with management regarding its plans to address these new concerns, and these will be followed up through additional inspections. RQIA expects the management of Clifton Nursing Home to have addressed these concerns by the next inspection, otherwise this may result in enforcement action."

Runwood homes took over running of Clifton Nursing Home three years ago. It followed difficulties with previous owners that led to the resignation of two senior managers and an apology about substandard care.

John Rafferty, operations manager for Runwood in Northern Ireland, said that a follow-up inspection to home in February was very positive.

"The ‘singing barber’ was in the home during the inspection. Several of the patients were looking forward to attending a tea dance in the local area that afternoon," he said.

"Patients were observed to be relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings and in their interactions with staff’.