Relatives slam standards at care home

A CARE home in Wick is in need of “a total shake-up from top to bottom,” it was claimed yesterday.

Caroline Nicoll, whose 70-year-old mother, Jean, is a resident at Riverside House, spoke out following a critical report from the Care Inspectorate on the town centre establishment.

Caroline and her brother George said the level of care had “gone down hill” in the past year and highlighted a number of concerns about the privately owned home – but their claims were strenuously denied by manager Donna Grant.

She told the John O’Groat Journal Riverside is run to a high standard and said she and her staff “strive to improve it on a daily basis.”

The Care Inspectorate report raised a number of concerns about the level of care after the premises were visited between November 26 and December 9 last year.

Miss Nicoll, 40, of Hillhead, Wick, said she cared for her mother before she became a resident at Riverside in February 2011 following two strokes in a six-month period. At first she was “reasonably happy” with the service but claimed it has “gone down hill in the past year.”

Miss Nicoll blamed a lack of training and a big turnover of staff for the changes.

She maintained some residents get preferential treatment and said staff need to listen more to the residents and try and cater better for their individual needs.

Miss Nicoll claimed residents are not treated with respect and dignity and was critical of the food at the Bridge Street premises.

She accused the home of not having enough staff on duty at nights and wondered how residents would get out if there was a fire.

Miss Nicoll welcomed plans to set up a residents and relatives forum but claimed management “would probably ignore it.”

Asked what she would like to see happen at the care home, she replied: “A total shake-up from top to bottom.” Miss Nicoll described the official report as “appalling” and said: “I did not expect anything else.”

Her brother George, 49, of Murray Avenue in Wick, also expressed concerns about the home. He has to use a wheelchair and said the lift at the care home was often broken and as a result there were times he was unable to visit his mother.

Mr Nicoll criticised the lack of activities and mental stimulation for residents and was unhappy with the standard of food at the home.

He felt the level of service had dropped “dramatically in the last year” and attributed that to the turnover in staff.

The claims were emphatically denied by Miss Grant who has worked for 15 years at the home and been manager for almost three years.

She described as “completely untrue” allegations about preferential treatment and pointed out that different people have different needs.

Miss Grant said staff get continuous training and undertake 12-week modules at Aberdeen College. The home currently employs 60 staff, most of whom are full-time. “Additional staff were recruited last year as our number of residents increased,” she told the Groat.

Miss Grant also rebutted the claims about the food. “It is very, very good. We source our butcher meat locally and use as much local produce as we can. The standard of food is very high,” she stated.

She accepted there have been mechanical problems with the lift but said it is serviced on a regular basis by a company based in Glasgow.

Miss Grant emphasised that fire drills and training are routinely carried out at the home which is inspected regularly by the Highlands and Islands Fire Service. She denied there is a lack of staff cover at nights.

“We have a staffing schedule which is laid down by the Care Commission and we adhere to that,” added Miss Grant.