Last week I was shocked and appalled to see the Panorama documentary on Clinton House, a care home run by the Morleigh Group in St Austell, and the neglect and abuse that has occurred there.
Although I had been made aware of the investigation when Cornwall Council closed Clinton House down earlier this month, to actually see the covert filming of what went on in the care home was horrific and physically sickened me. Having had a relative in a Morleigh home before I can only imagine what the residents and their families must be going through.
Now that we are aware of these awful incidents, as MP I want to ensure that something like this does not happen again, through Mid-Cornwall and indeed across the country.
Some have commented that this is purely a funding issue but I know that just throwing money at a problem and hoping it will go away is not the answer to everything. What has happened here is, in my mind symptomatic of a system where the operators of a care home or group have allowed a culture of endemic neglect and abuse to exist. There are many care homes run with the same funding model across Cornwall that provide excellent care.
The vast majority of people who work in care homes are dedicated and caring people and we shouldn’t allow this to detract from the excellent work being done in the majority of homes across Cornwall. However we also need to address weaknesses where we find them.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the body responsible for the inspection of care homes to ensure they are being run correctly. After having considered what has happened over a prolonged period of time, I believe the inspection process is flawed. In this case, the CQC investigated Morleigh Group care homes, including Clinton House and the other establishments subsequently identified and closed in the following investigation, 22 times over the last two years. Yet it took Panorama to uncover the abuse that was taking place here. Obviously there is a problem with the system.
Specifically, I think there is a culture of cover up that needs to be exposed. Both staff and families of residents need a way of making their concerns heard and addressed without fear of reprisals. Whilst I had not been contacted by constituents with concerns about the Morleigh Group prior to the Panorama airing, I have now been contacted by a number of families of residents and former care home workers, with disturbing stories of their experiences.
The day after the Panorama investigation was shown I met with the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and the Minister for Care David Mowatt to discuss what can be done to safeguard residents and their families from abuse like this in the future. I subsequently met with management from the CQC this Monday to raise my concerns over the inspection process and will be feeding the outcome of this meeting back to the Secretary of State in the coming week.
Make no mistake about it, the Panorama programme and the investigation that came from it has cast a dark shadow across certain care homes in Cornwall. As I have said in the past treating people with respect and dignity cost nothing. As MP I will do all I can to work with those involved to ensure lessons are learned, safeguards are put in place and everything possible is done to make sure that this does not happen again.