Carers Speak Out Over Standards

Two care assistants have spoken to the BBC about what goes on behind closed doors in some old people’s homes in Northern Ireland.

They work for an agency and have been sent to many different homes, but their experiences are very similar.

They claimed old people are left in soiled incontinence pads and infections are easily spread by poor hygiene and shortages of basic equipment.

Both said they have seen care workers and nurses asleep while on duty.

Because they would lose their jobs if their identities were revealed, the BBC is not naming them.

One, ‘Ann’, told of her experience.

“It happens more on a night shift because you don’t have visitors coming in and out, you don’t have phones ringing so therefore there’s more time for either the staff nurse or the care assistant if he or she wants to sleep that they do have an opportunity to do that.

“I have been on a night shift where the staff nurse has perhaps slept for five or six hours.”

She told the BBC she had reported three homes for staff sleeping on duty. And, as far as she knows, no sanction has resulted.

Both women said some staff they have worked with ignored the need to change used incontinence pads.

“I have gone into a home where residents have sat in the same pad and diarrhoea perhaps has been spilling out over the top of that incontinence pad and it has been very obvious to me that no-one has thought to changing that person’s incontinent pad so he or she could have sat there for seven, eight or nine hours…. they’re bound to have sores on their bottoms and I have noticed this as well.”  

The other care worker, ‘Joan’ told of an experiment she conducted.

“I was in a nursing home and I was putting the man to bed and his pad was very, very wet and I thought that pad hasn’t been changed in a long time, so, the pad I put on him in the morning , I put an X on it,” she said.

“When I was putting him to bed the next night that pad was the same pad I’d put on in the morning.”

Both women said poor hygiene is commonplace. Sometimes due to a lack of cleaning but just as often due to a shortage of gloves or wipes.

‘Joan’ told this story: “When I’ve worked in nursing homes I would see the other carers using cleaning wipes that’s for hard surfaces so you can imagine what that would do to people’s bottoms.”

Both women said infections like MRSA and C. difficile were commonplace.

Joan told of worrying sights:

“I’ve worked with people who don’t even put an apron and gloves on.

“They go into and work with that person who has C diff, they don’t even wash their hands, they come out and they go to another resident so like no wonder you know it’s spreading so fast.”

The women said they would recommend half a dozen homes they have worked in. But said they were speaking out to try to improve care in the rest.

The body which inspects care homes said that it takes poor care very seriously.

They said in the last year they have carried out nearly 1,000 announced and unannounced inspections, which have resulted in 10 residential and nursing homes being told to improve their care.