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One in four care homes unsafe.

One in four care homes for older people are unsafe, a damning watchdog report has revealed.

Poor leadership and staff shortages mean residents in a quarter of care homes are going weeks without being cleaned and are served dangerous levels of medication, the first comprehensive audit has found.

The report, by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) also reveals that a third of residential nursing homes are failing to provide safe levels of care.

Examples of poor care included out-of-date medicine being given to residents, care staff being used as stand-in chefs and care home managers who could not name a single resident.

The CQC began inspecting every registered adult social care provider, including domiciliary care and special needs services, both private and publicly funded, in October 2014.

The watchdog releases its report after it completed inspections of all 24,000 providers in England.

It found that of 10,858 residential care homes inspected, more than 2,600 were rated either ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ for safety. Meanwhile, of the 4,042 residential nursing homes visited by the CQC, 1,496, or 37 per cent, were unsafe.

Across the entire adult social care sector, including domiciliary and community social care, 23 per cent of services were found to require improvement for safety, and two per cent were judged to be inadequate, approximately 6,000 organisations.

Twenty-two per cent of services were found to require leadership improvement, while two per cent were judged to be inadequate.

The report also concluded that 26 per cent of the services, initially rated “Good” but subsequently re-inspected, had deteriorated, a sign that even the top end of the market is in “precarious” shape, according to the CQC.

Chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC, Andrea Sutcliffe, said: “It appears to be increasingly difficult for some providers to deliver the safe, high-quality and compassionate care people deserve and have every right to expect. With demand for social care expected to rise over the next two decades, this is more worrying than ever.”

Charity director at Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, said: “The statistics are frankly pretty scary. You can be lucky, but it’s like playing Russian roulette.”

Among worst examples were the Meadowbrook Care Home, Shropshire, where ants were found crawling over dining tables and soiled mattresses discovered.

Meanwhile Aamina Home Care, a domiciliary care agency, in Lincolnshire, was found to deliver six minutes of care for people requiring 45, as well as administering medicines unsafely and at the wrong times. One patient needed medicines administered in four hour gaps, but was given them all at once.

Since 2015, the organisation has prosecuted five providers for the most shocking failures, all involving the death, or serious injury, of a resident, resulting in cumulative fines of more than half a million pounds.

One of those was Mosley Manor Care Home, Liverpool, where some residents had not been bathed for three weeks and there was no soap or hot water in the communal bathrooms.

The report found that managers often fail to properly check the skills and qualifications of staff before employing them, a problem worsened by a high turnover rate and a heavy reliance on temporary agency staff.

Ms Sutcliffe advised people to thoroughly inspect care homes before sending their relatives, including smelling the premises and interviewing the registered manager to see how well they knows the residents and staff.

Head of policy and campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society, Nicola O’Brien, said unsafe care homes were particularly worrying for the relatives and friends of dementia sufferers.

She said: “It is disturbing that safety has been flagged as the biggest concern in care, when providers are caring for some of the most vulnerable adults in society.

“Too often we hear the consequences of inadequate care. Our own investigation revealed people with dementia left in soiled sheets, or becoming ill after eating out-of-date food, and that only a third of homecare workers have received dementia training, leaving families fearing for their loved ones.”