An undercover investigation into residential care homes has exposed rough behaviour towards elderly residents, inadequate meals and a lack of basic care, according to a watchdog.
In an operation run by Which?, actors were sent in to four unnamed care homes in England posing as residents and recording what they found.
In the most extreme instance, one researcher witnessed a carer dragging a resident towards the toilet by one arm, while another resident was pushed back into their chair repeatedly by the head and shoulder when trying to stand up.
The watchdog reported this to independent regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and admissions to the home were suspended immediately.
Which? findings revealed that residents were served unappetising meals, inadequate in both nutrition and size, with one researcher reporting a half-stone (7lb) weight loss in a single week.
The report also raises concern over the communication and management skills of staff disclosing that in three of the homes, residents "sometimes had to wait 16 or 17 hours between dinner and breakfast without food".
In one example, an actor reported that a lady groaning in pain waited 35 minutes for pain relief because staff were busy completing a handover. In another instance, a woman was close to tears because she needed the toilet before lunch, but was refused with the comment "this is a dining room, not a loo".
Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, called for tighter measures to ensure care homes acted upon risks identified in reports by the CQC.
"The fact that the CQC had identified some of the same problems in previous inspections is a real issue - clearly, not all care homes take inspection reports as seriously as they should," he said. "We'd like the CQC to step up its enforcement activities to ensure homes can't just pay lip-service when action is required. Old age comes to us all, and everyone living in a home has a right to expect their most basic needs to be met. Sadly, the homes we visited left a lot to be desired."
Dame Jo Williams, chair of the Care Quality Commission, said: "The evidence Which? shared with us describes care that falls below what people using social care services have a right to expect - in one case so seriously that we acted immediately to ensure admissions to the home were suspended and are now considering the best action for residents currently living there."