Lifeways fined £460,000 for failing to protect residents

Mental health service faces prosecution
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Lifeways Community Care Ltd has been ordered to pay more than £495,000 at Cirencester Magistrates’ Court after it failed to protect residents from avoidable harm. 

The provider, which operated Alstone House in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was fined £460,000 in court on Tuesday (28 September) and ordered to pay a £170 victim surcharge and £35,000 costs to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which brought the prosecution.

Alstone House was a residential care home that supported adults who had physical disabilities, learning disabilities and some who had acquired brain injuries.

In 2017 the regulator received information from healthcare professionals regarding the standards of care at the setting and carried out an inspection on 15 February that year. The service was subsequently rated ‘inadequate’. CQC later received confirmation Alstone House would be closing.

A month later in March, a person (VDC) who was living at Alstone House, phoned for an ambulance. A paramedic who later attended the home said it was apparent VDC had recently physically assaulted two agency care workers at the service.

As the paramedic was leaving, they were called back by staff.

VDC had subsequently gone into another resident’s room and locked the door behind them. The agency staff tried to break down the door as it was apparent the other resident (LM) was being attacked, but they were unable to do so.

After 30 minutes VDC left the room. During this time VDC had physically assaulted LM and left them with life changing facial injuries.

On the evening of the incident, the staff ratio should have been two agency workers with a permanent employee on duty. This permanent member of staff would know all the bedroom codes and where keys were kept in case of any incidents. However, they did not turn up for work that evening.

During the incident the agency staff contacted the on-call manager for support, but they did not answer the duty phone. The agency staff immediately called the police.

Lifeways’ failure to properly assess the risk of being unable to obtain access to a locked bedroom led to a service user (VDC), who could be unpredictable and violent, assaulting LM and seriously injuring them.

Lifeways pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe care and treatment to LM.

‘This was a shocking case and I welcome the guilty plea from Lifeways Community Care Ltd,’ said Rebecca Bauers, CQC head of inspection for adult social care.

‘Regardless of whether a service is closing or not there is an expectation that it must provide the standard of care people have a right to expect, with right levels of staffing at every available opportunity.

‘People had every right to expect safe care at Alstone House and in this case the provider has failed LM in its specific legal duty to protect them and other residents from being exposed to a significant risk of harm. It has also failed in its duty of care to the agency staff working at the service.’

A spokesperson for Lifeways said: ‘We take our responsibilities very seriously and work hard to provide high levels of care, however we accept that we didn’t meet the standards we set for ourselves in this case.

‘We deeply regret what happened and our thoughts go to those affected by the
incident.

‘Immediately following this incident we started to introduce significant changes to the
way we work with the aim of preventing such an incident happening again, and we
committed to continuously reviewing and improving our practices to make sure that
the people we support, and our colleagues who support them are kept safe.’