Staff suspended for drug blunders and cover-up at home for elderly

Three care home staff have been suspended after they failed to give elderly residents their medication and then covered up the error by amending confidential records, it was revealed today.

A further two workers at the Tower Bridge Care Centre in Southwark are facing disciplinary action for gross misconduct.

An investigation uncovered the wrongdoing following a series of emails from a whistleblower alerting officials to the mishap and subsequent cover up.

At the time of the incidents, the home was owned by failed care home operator Southern Cross, which went bust this summer.

Southwark Council, which launched the inquiry, has now frozen all new placements to the home as well as the nearby Camberwell Green Home. Both homes are now run by HC-One.

The investigation found eight residents at the Tower Bridge Care Centre were not given their medication on 15 July and during a routine visit by NHS watchdog the Care Quality Commission on 21 July staff and management conspired to change medical records to cover up their error.

Southern Cross had conducted its own internal investigation but council chiefs decided to launch their own citing no confidence in the one run by the failed care home operator.

It comes as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered inspectors to carry out unannounced spot checks on residential homes to flush out and tackle the scandal of poor and abusive treatment suffered by the frail and vulnerable.

The probes will concentrate on whether older people are treated with dignity, whether their privacy is respected, whether staff treat them with compassion – and whether they are regularly fed nutritious food.

If poor standards are found, the CQC will be able to demand improvements and, in extreme cases, the complete closure of homes.

Dora Dixon-Fyle, Southwark’s cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “We’re dismayed at the behaviour of a number of staff at the Tower Bridge Care Centre.

“As we were not satisfied with Southern Cross’s own internal investigation, we ordered a separate independent investigation into the allegations and can now confirm that three staff at the care home have been suspended and a further two are currently subject to disciplinary action.

“We have also placed an immediate embargo on all new placements to the Tower Bridge Care Centre as well Camberwell Green Care Home which was also operated by Southern Cross.”

A CQC spokeswoman said: “The CQC carried out a routine inspection of the Tower Bridge Care Centre in July this year. We found that the nursing home was not meeting our essential standard around the management of medicines and issued a warning notice in accordance with our enforcement procedures.

“The CQC will continue to monitor Tower Bridge Care Centre in our role as regulator of services to make sure that people living there receive good quality care, and will not hesitate to take further action if we need to.”