A man has slammed the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for being "complicit in the wrongdoing of nursing homes" after he said it did not inform the public that a care home employing illegal immigrants had failed a number of key standards.

Clive Morris, 44, from Epsom, contacted the Epsom Guardian, after moving his elderly mother out of Firtree House Nursing Home, based at 2 Fir Tree Road, Banstead.

He said the home’s numerous failings - including being severely understaffed - were behind his decision.

But he is concerned that the CQC, the body charged with inspecting health and social care services across the country, did not properly communicate the home's shortcomings to its residents and their relatives - an omission he believes makes the CQC party to them being kept "on the back-foot" by nursing homes.

In an inspection conducted by the CQC in June last year, the home met all key standards it was assessed for - respecting and involving people who use its services, consent to care and treatment, meeting nutritional needs, staffing, and assessing and monitoring quality.

But in February this year, the home was inspected again in response to concerns that standards were not being met. It failed in all areas - care and welfare of people, medicines management, staffing, and notification of the death of a resident.

In May, the CQC visited it again in response to concerns about food and found Firtree was meeting its nutritional standards standard.

Mr Morris said the CQC misled the home's residents and their relatives by not publishing reports of the two most recent inspections on its website until last month.

And, in leaving up the report conducted in June last year, in which the home met all its standards, he believes it misled people into thinking this was the most recent inspection.

The missing reports were only published on the CQC's website after Mr Morris complained.

He said he was told "that was a mistake of ours" by the CQC.

Mr Morris said he contacted Surrey social services when he knew his mother would not be returning to Fir Tree to complain and was informed that the home was under review.

"The CQC is not fit for purpose," he said.

"My mother was in there for a year. The nursing home is rubbish.

"When you have good reviews up, relatives will think ‘it’s just me, I’m being over-sensitive’.

"The CQC doen’t seem to want to take on board any complaints you bring up with them.

"Unless they see it on one of their visits it doesn’t happen.

"In effect, they are complicit in their wrongdoing of nursing homes. They are a toothless watchdog.

"When a nursing home has failed all of its checks, it should be obliged that all relatives of residents there should be notified of this."

Mr Morris said it is important the CQC is thorough and proactive because relatives, in the first place, are reluctant to raise concerns about a home because they "don’t want to antagonise the very people who are looking after your relatives".

"We don’t have much power," he continued.

"I would love to have taken mum out of Firtree earlier than we did but we weren’t informed by the CQC that our misgivings were justified and you can’t trust the reviews the CQC post online.

"When you put someone in a nursing home you would think, if you’re paying £1,000 a week, the customer comes first, but that’s not really the experience.

"It quickly becomes an ‘us versus them’ situation.

"You get all sweetness and light before you go in and when you’re leaving, but not when you’re there.

"There’s a strange culture in nursing homes.

"Sometimes you get many first generation immigrants who can be very friendly but you get a sense that if you raise concerns things could flare up quickly. They get defensive.

"There isn’t anyone English at Firtree. There’s a cultural disconnect."

A spokeswoman for the CQC said Firtree has had five unannounced inspections since it registered with the CQC and reports from each of these are available on its website.

She said: "We realise this information is very important to residents and their families so we aim to publish reports as soon as we can following an inspection.

"There is a legal process we have to follow before we can publish a report - and this takes time.

"We aim to publish reports within six-to-eight weeks of an inspection, but sometimes it can take longer than that.

"Where concerns are identified these are raised with the provider as soon as possible, and these are shared with the local authority commissioning and safeguarding teams where necessary to enable them to take any action they need to take to protect residents.

"CQC takes information from people who live in care homes, their relatives, staff and members of the public very seriously. This guides inspection activity and can even trigger inspections.

"While CQC cannot take action based on information of concern alone, this information is used to guide what inspectors look at in any given services - for example, inspectors would talk to people in the home about any specific areas raised - and will be shared with other agencies if it suggests people are at risk of harm."

On Firtree's page on the CQC website it currently states: "We are carrying out checks at Firtree House Nursing Home using our new way of inspecting services. We will publish a report when our check is complete."

Last month, the CQC announced that it has issued documents called ‘handbooks’, to help care providers understand how they will be assessed and rated from now on.

It said specialist teams, including trained members of the public - called experts by experience - will inspect services, unannounced, against what matters most to the people who use them - in a bid to improve the quality of the service it provides.

A Surrey County Council spokeswoman said it and Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group have visited Firtree to visit the residents it funds and reviewed their care plans.

She added: "We continually make it easy for residents and their families to raise any concerns through the visits of our quality manager."

Speaking to the Epsom Guardian, Salim Jiwa, the owner of Firtree, said the home prides itself on its good quality of care, but admitted there had been "issues" towards the end of last year - which he said have now been resolved.

He said the home’s matron, who had worked there for 14 years, was "burnt-out" and not "performing to the level required".

He said that she and Mr Jiwa agreed that she should resign - a development which he said residents and their relatives were informed of.

On top of this, half of the carers - six of a team of 12 - were required to leave in February after it was discovered they had been working in the UK illegally.

He said: "There were no issues with the quality of care the carers were providing.

"They were working under forged documents. Despite vigorous checks we didn’t detect they were false and the Home Office told us this wasn’t something we could have recognised.

"What that created was a temporary staff shortage and in this state we had the CQC inspection in February.

"That is why we didn’t meet some of the standards.

"But now the situation is different.  Since July, we have had a new matron and are fully-staffed."

Mr Jiwa said he does not believe there are any cultural problems in employing carers from abroad and that British-born staff are extremely difficult to recruit as they do not apply for such positions.

He said: "The carers are coming from Europe, Africa and the Philippines.

"People from abroad are more caring and friendly.

"I don’t see any culture differences hindering them from giving residents the care that they want.

"They will go out of their way to perform their duties."

Mr Jiwa said the home has a regular patient feedback audit and a residents’ meeting, which was started recently, as well as an ongoing programme to "revamp the environment of the home" and constant staff training.

He said Mr Morris should have approached him about his concerns because he "would have gone out of my way" to address them.

"I’m there on a regular basis. I speak to the residents and their relatives to check if everything is ok," Mr Jiwa added.

"Occasionally we might get a situation where we could be under-staffed. It’s a reality of life.

"We are due a visit by the CQC. When they do, the situation will be different. I hope we meet all the standards."

What have your experiences with the CQC or nursing homes been like? Contact Hardeep Matharu on the newsdesk by calling 020 8722 6346 or by emailing hmatharu@london.newsquest.co.uk.


'CQC launched witch-hunt against me', claims 'failing' care homes whistleblower