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National Autistic Society closes residential home following critical inspection

After CQC rates Mendip House inadequate, NAS takes decision to close the service

The National Autistic Society has apologised after the Care Quality Commission rated one of its residential homes as inadequate.

The CQC found Mendip House in Highbridge, Somerset was inadequate for being safe, effective, responsive, caring and well-led.

Debbie Ivanova, Deputy Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at CQC, said: “Everyone who uses this service has a right to safe, effective, compassionate and high quality care. I am extremely concerned that Mendip House has failed to meet even some of the most basic needs for the people living there. These are unacceptable failings and must not be allowed to continue.”

The CQC inspection found that overall, the home had been “extremely poorly managed”. Inspectors found a chaotic approach to management systems, structures and record keeping. The provider’s governance and auditing of the service had been weak and ineffective and there had been a lack of action when the home failed to improve in identified areas. The damaging staff culture was known about and discussed both within the home and by the senior management team but the appropriate action had not been taken.

Inspectors found people had not been kept safe in the service which accommodates six people who have autism and complex support needs. A number of serious allegations, such as abuse, neglect and degrading treatment of people, had been made. One staff member raised their concerns with inspectors directly as they had no confidence that the provider would take their concerns seriously and act on them. The concerns were reported to the police and the local authority safeguarding team immediately whose investigations continue.

The inspection also found:

  • Poor health plans with some having nothing recorded in them since 2013.
  • People did not have a choice of nutritious meals and drinks and as a result some people’s diets were very poor.
  • Staff were not found to be supporting people’s diverse needs. Inspectors did not find any cultural or spiritual needs assessed or recorded in any person’s care plan.
  • People living in the service were not receiving personalised care which was responsive to their needs.
  • Care planning was found by inspectors to be confusing and out of date. Plans were not reviewed and did not reflect people’s current needs.

Debbie Ivanova said: “If we do not see immediate changes in care we will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers to ensure improvements take place.”

The National Autistic Society said it was planning to close Mendip House “given the depths of problems identified by the CQC and our own investigation”. Rather than put residents through more uncertainty while they tried to turn the service round, “we believe it is better for everyone's sake to close now”.

NAS director Jane Harris said, “We aim to run the best possible residential services for autistic adults, where they are safe and can live a full life. We are very sorry that, as this report from the CQC shows, we have failed badly to live up to this at our Mendip House care home.

“It’s evident that the standards in Mendip House had been deteriorating for some time – and we should have picked this up sooner. When members of staff separately alerted us and the CQC to unacceptable staff behaviour in May, we immediately made sure our residents were safe, contacted other partners and appointed an independent investigator. We are now taking disciplinary action against local management and staff.

“While there is no evidence of anyone coming to physical harm, the CQC’s report shows that people were put at risk by some staff neglecting their duties. There was also a serious failure to follow the rigorous procedures – such as monitoring health plans and diet – that are necessary to ensure people with often-complex needs are kept safe and happy."

“Mendip House has been a home to six people and the priority for everyone involved with the closure process is to ensure they are found good new homes. We will do everything we can to support our residents’ families and their home local authorities and have already started meeting with families to make sure this happens,” Ms Harris concluded.


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