A charity-run care service where staff secretly gave disabled patients medicine and used cameras to watch over them has plunged into special measures.
Sandwell Community Caring Trust faces being shut down for good after health inspectors discovered staff were defying legal requirements to obtain consent for treatment and surveillance.
Health watchdog Care Quality Commission (CQC) has now condemned the trust for its ‘unacceptable’ service and blamed issues on a ‘lack of oversight’ from bosses.
It unearthed evidence of staff flouting mental health laws and making decisions about patient care without involving them.
The West Bromwich-based service cares for 150 people with learning and physical disabilities in their own homes across the Black Country.
Inspectors gave just 24 hours’ notice before launching their impromptu investigation after concerns were raised about unethical staff practices.
Their report, published on Tuesday, read: “When people receive care and treatment in their own homes an application must be made to the Court of Protection for them to authorise people to be deprived of their liberty.
“We found decisions had been made on behalf of people who lacked capacity without the principles of the Mental Capacity Act having been followed.
“This included using surveillance equipment and administering medicines covertly.”
Inspectors deemed the trust inadequate overall, rating it as requiring improvement for being safe and inadequate in the effective and well-led categories.
It had previously been judged ‘good’ but now faces another inspection in six months and could be permanently closed down if not enough improvements are made.
The June inspection revealed staff had ‘limited knowledge’ about legal requirements to ensure they got consent to care and treatment as managers had failed to provide the ‘right training’ – and in some cases, not at all.
Senior staff also failed to ensure all national guidelines were followed, while steps were not always taken to help patients move freely around their homes.
Debbie Ivanova, CQC deputy chief inspector for people with a learning disability and autistic people, said: “Our inspection of Sandwell Community Caring Trust found the service did not always involve people in important decisions about their care.
“People should always be supported to have as much choice and control over their lives as possible, so this is unacceptable.
“We also had concerns about how the service managed its safeguarding responsibilities, people’s records and staff training.
“Behind this was a lack of oversight from its leadership to ensure best practice was followed and to support staff to provide good care.
“However, people and their relatives said they felt safe using the service.
“We also found it took steps to manage the risk of infection, including for COVID-19, and it sought positive outcomes for people’s overall physical health.
“We continue to monitor the service closely and will take further action if we are not assured it is making necessary improvements.”
The inspection took place after concerns the service was not always obtaining consent for care and treatment, which is required by law, the CQC confirmed.
Sandwell Community Caring Trust was approached for a comment.
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