Reliance on agency workers leads to ‘inadequate’ ratings at Spectrum

Four services operated by Spectrum (Devon and Cornwall Autistic Community Trust) have been rated ‘inadequate’ by the regulator, with all of them short staffed and reliant on agency workers to fill hours.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) undertook inspections at Silverdale in Redruth, Trelawney House in Helston, as well as Carrick and Heightlea, both in Truro.

Silverdale provides personal care for up to four people with learning disabilities. It was previously rated ‘requires improvement’ overall and is now rated as ‘inadequate’ and been placed in special measures. CQC carried out an unannounced focused inspection to follow up on action it told the provider to take.

Trelawney House is a residential care home that can provide personal support to six people with a learning disability and autistic individuals. CQC inspected the service to check whether improvements had been made following an earlier inspection. Following the latest inspection, it remained rated ‘inadequate’ overall.

Carrick provides personal care for up to five people with learning disabilities or autistic citizens in a residential setting. CQC carried out an unannounced inspection after receiving information of concern about an increase in the number of incidents in the service. Following the inspection, its overall rating remained ‘inadequate’.

Finally, Heightlea is a residential care home providing personal care for up to five individuals with learning disabilities or autistic people. CQC carried out an unannounced inspection to follow up on concerns identified at the previous check. Following the latest inspection, its overall rating dropped from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘inadequate’.

Debbie Ivanova, CQC’s deputy chief inspector for people with a learning disability and autistic people, said services were ‘being failed by leaders’.

She said: ‘All four services were short staffed and were relying on agency to fill most of the hours on the rotas. At times these staff were working 84-98-hour weeks and also completing sleep in shifts as well. The mixture of these long working weeks and the dependency of the people living in the services left everyone at a high risk of being impacted negatively by a closed culture.

‘The interim managers overseeing the services were aware of this risk and noted that further recruitment was needed. But, Spectrum overall had not assessed the risk or taken action to mitigate it.’

Some improvements were found at Trelawney House but the other services still had breaches outstanding.

‘We are using the CQCs enforcement powers to keep people safe but cannot comment on these processes until they are complete,’ Ivanova said. ‘In the meantime, we are working closely with the local authority and other partners to ensure people’s safety whilst these improvements are made and fully embedded.’

Despite an improvement at Carrick, staffing arrangements remained challenging. Services had significant numbers of staff vacancies and were unable to recruit additional workers.

None of the services had a registered manager in post and there was limited leadership from the provider, inspectors found.

At Carrick, information gathered during its inspection indicated there was a financial relationship that may not have been in the best interest of a resident, the CQC said. As a result, information was shared with the local authority as a safeguarding alert.

A Spectrum spokesperson said: ‘The health and wellbeing of the people we support is our absolute priority and we are doing everything we can to provide them with the high quality care they deserve.

‘We are working closely with Cornwall Council and the CQC to address areas of concern in our adult services. This work is on-going and includes addressing recruitment challenges within the county.

‘We would like to thank the people we support and their families for their continued support of our charity.’