A Godalming charity has been told that it "requires improvement" following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Inspectors visited after concerns were raised over how the risks of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) were managed at Meath Epilepsy Charity.
The charity, of which MP for South West Surrey Jeremy Hunt is a patron, was inspected on October 7, 2022, and a CQC report was published on December 19. It operates as a residential care home for up to 84 people living with epilepsy and who may have associated learning and/or physical disabilities.
The last rating for the charity was published in October 2021 and was deemed "good" - before that in 2016 it was rated "outstanding". However, a decision was made to visit following the review of an incident that led The Meath to create an action plan in July 2022 of steps to improve staff understanding and risk monitoring, resulting in the second-lowest rating - 'inadequate' being the lowest - being given.
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The unannounced inspection found that although some aspects of the action plan had been completed - for example reviews of people's epilepsy risk assessments, night-time care plans and development of staff understanding of SUDEP - more work was needed. Key questions such as "is this service safe?" and "is this service well-led?" were also rated as "requires improvement" while categories including 'effective', 'caring' and 'responsive all received a "good".
It also found that the charity had failed to ensure risks to people's safety were robustly monitored and medicines were stored safely as well as not ensuring effective and consistent management oversight. Other findings included comprehensive audits not being completed that would help identify shortfalls in relation to risks to people's safety, medicines management and the use of PPE.
Also, any action plans in place were not regularly reviewed and there was a lack of consistency across the service. For example, systems for discussing emergency processes and scenarios had been implemented in some houses or flats but not in others.
The inspectors spoke with seven people who used the charity's services as well as six relatives to understand their experience of the care given. Positive feedback included: "I love living here very much. It's my home and I never want to move.
"It's a nice calm home this one and all the people here are very nice, the people that live here and the staff. We are a family." Other comments noted that it was "good" the way the place was run and called its ethos "open and honest".
The staff also demonstrated good awareness of people's needs and engaging when it came to making daily decisions about the care needed, such as meal choices, how time was spent and who supported them. Elsewhere, a recent staff survey had been completed with results that were "on the whole positive".
The inspectors said on safeguarding issues: "People told us they felt safe living at The Meath and we observed people were relaxed in the company of staff. However, we found although safeguarding concerns were reported promptly there had been delays to fully responding to one safeguarding concern which had impacted on people's well-being. In other instances, we found safeguarding concerns had been responded to promptly."
Following the inspection, the report said that the registered manager "assured us" that additional steps had been taken to keep people safe, including assurances given to prevent visitors from catching and spreading infections. The report added that it has asked the charity to send CQC a report stating what action it is going to take based on the regulations for safe care and treatment and good governance that were not being met.
The Meath CEO Lee Bennett told SurreyLive : “Following a targeted CQC inspection, The Meath has been rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ in two focused areas of assessment and our overall rating has been downgraded to ‘Requires Improvement’. All other areas of assessment remain rated as ‘Good’. This is extremely disappointing news and in response we have designed a plan of action and recovery document in order to make the required improvements to all aspects of our care provision.
"The documents have been signed off by the Health and Social Care sub-committee, comprising trustees with relevant experience, epilepsy nurse, a retired GP, myself and our Head of Residential Care. As the new CEO of The Meath, our long-term goal is to not only make the swift necessary improvements needed to reinstate our CQC rating to ‘Good’ but to embark on a journey of continuous improvement which leads to our long-term goal of being rated ‘Outstanding’.
"We have implemented our plan to achieve this and we look forward to being able to update readers of positive progress made over the next few months.”
Jeremy Hunt was contacted for comment.
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