Charity health service criticized for “using surveillance equipment and secretly administering drugs”

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A care service run by a charity where staff secretly gave medicine to disabled patients and used cameras to monitor them has plunged into special measures.

Sandwell Community Caring Trust is at risk of being permanently shut down after health inspectors found staff were defying legal requirements to obtain consent for treatment and monitoring.

The health watchdog Care Quality Commission (CQC) has now condemned trust in its service “unacceptable” and blamed the problems on a “lack of oversight” on the part of the bosses.

He uncovered evidence that staff flouted mental health laws and made decisions about patient care without involving them.

The West Bromwich-based service looks after 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, released on Tuesday, reads: “When people receive care and treatment at home, an application must be filed with the protection court to allow deprivation of liberty.

“We found that decisions were made on behalf of people who lack capacity without the principles of the Mental Capacity Act being followed.

“This included the use of surveillance equipment and the covert administration of drugs.”

Inspectors judged the trust to be inadequate overall, rating it as needing improvement to be safe and inadequate in the effective and well-directed categories.

It had previously been rated ‘good’, but is now due for another inspection in six months and could be closed permanently if improvements are not sufficient.

The June inspection found that staff had “limited knowledge” of the legal requirements to ensure consent to care and treatment was obtained because managers had not provided the “right training” – and in some cases not at all.

Senior officials also failed to ensure that all national guidelines were followed, while steps were not always taken to help patients move freely in their homes.

Debbie Ivanova, CQC Deputy Chief Inspector for People with Learning Disabilities and People with Autism, said: “Our inspection of Sandwell Community Caring Trust found that service did not always involve people in important decisions. concerning their care.

“People should always be encouraged to have as much choice and control over their lives as possible, so this is unacceptable.

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“We also had concerns about how the department was handling its responsibilities for protection, people records and staff training.

“Behind this was a lack of oversight on the part of his management to make sure best practices were being followed and to help staff provide good care.

“However, people and their loved ones said they felt safe using the service.

“We also found that he was taking steps to manage the risk of infection, including for COVID-19, and that he was seeking positive results for people’s overall physical health.

“We continue to monitor the service closely and will take further action if we are not satisfied that it makes the necessary improvements.”

The inspection came after concerns that the service did not always obtain consent for care and treatment, which is required by law, the CQC confirmed.

Sandwell Community Caring Trust has been approached for comment.

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