Optima Care Limited was slammed in a report by the Care and Quality Commission with boss Edward Coombes admitting the findings were “deeply concerning”
Image: Humphrey Nemar)
Britain’s “worst-rated” care home company left scores of vulnerable autistic and disabled people at risk of physical abuse.
One Optima Care Limited manager joined in “unlawful restraint” of a resident, while some staff would “purposefully cause pain” and were accused of “physical abuse”, a report by the Care and Quality Commission concluded.
Some residents, many of whom cannot “verbalise” their fears, reportedly hid in their rooms in fear, while others were locked up without “authorisation”.
Six of the firm’s nine homes were inspected in February and March and deemed “inadequate”, while the other three were found to “require improvement”. Just 1.5% of England’s care homes are currently rated “inadequate”.
When we confronted boss Edward Coombes outside his £2.5million South London home he agreed when we asked if something had gone “very badly wrong”.
He said in a statement the reports were “deeply concerning”, he had taken “immediate action” and there had been “a number of noticeable improvements”.
Allegations of abuse were made at all six homes, in some cases by workers.
None could show they had the statutory number of trained staff, the report found. One has since been re-inspected and now “requires improvements”.
On September 15, the Mirror searched the records of all the 219 care homes rated “inadequate” by the CQC.
Optima Care had the most “inadequate” homes of any single provider. It also had the worst ratings of any chain with more than three homes.
CQC reports revealed that residents had been “unlawfully restrained” at the company’s Eastry Villa and Gate House homes, both in Sandwich, and at Heron House in Herne Bay, all Kent, people had been “physically harmed”.
At another, an agency worker said they “had not worked with people with a learning disability before”.
The CQC’s most recent inspection of an Optima Care home took place at The Chilterns in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent.
Its report said: “We had identified themes regarding the monitoring of quality and safety. Despite this, the provider had not carried out a recent quality audit. There was a lack of effective governance and oversight.”
The CQC said three of Opima Care’s homes were currently empty. A spokesman said: “We have taken enforcement action at a number of these locations and continue to closely monitor the provider with key partners, including the local authority. We will return to inspect services we have concerns about.”
The highest paid director of Optima Care is understood to be Mr Coombes who earned £160,067 a year, more than the Prime Minister.
Mr Coombes said in a statement: “The issues raised by the CQC earlier this year in relation to our Kent care homes were deeply concerning. We took immediate action at the time, including appointing a new management team to oversee the improvements requested by CQC.
“We have since been working with the CQC and Kent county council to ensure the quality of care is at the level to which we and our residents are accustomed.”
He said staff had been given “additional training” and “apologised” to residents and their families.