Belfast Telegraph

Failing Cherry Tree Nursing Home given £658k by cash-strapped trust

By Lisa Smyth

Cash-strapped health bosses have shelled out more than £658,000 to a failing nursing home over a nine-month period, it can be revealed today.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has paid the significant amount despite the fact that Cherry Tree Nursing and Residential Home has repeatedly failed to meet basic standards.

Last September inspectors discovered the Carrickfergus facility was failing to protect patients from harm or suffering abuse.

At the time there were 53 people placed at the home by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. Two more inspections uncovered further concerns.

The home is currently subject to an order by health officials to raise standards as a result of the litany of failings. However, figures released under Freedom of Information show the trust has paid the home £658,894 since September last year.

The trust has also revealed that 45 of its patients were placed at the home at the beginning of June.

Jim Wells, deputy chair of the Stormont health committee, said: "This is a shocking amount of money considering the list of concerns that have been raised about Cherry Tree. It does make you think that perhaps the trust does not have any alternative options."

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), which sets standards for nursing homes here, has carried out 21 inspections of the facility since January 2010 due to ongoing breaches of legislation. Normally, the watchdog examines facilities twice a year.

In September last year RQIA inspectors identified breaches in management of protecting vulnerable adults from harm. As a result, a serious concerns meeting was held during which management at the home was ordered to address issues.

However, during a subsequent inspection it emerged that the home had failed to properly report potential verbal abuse of a patient.

Further issues were discovered in May when the RQIA found that management had failed to report an allegation of inappropriate behaviour by staff towards colleagues.

During a subsequent investigation into the allegation, two further allegations of abuse of patient care came to light, but these were, once again, not referred to the RQIA.

A failure to comply notice was issued and the home was given a deadline of July 9 to address concerns. However, the notice has since been extended, with compliance with legislation required by the end of August.

Cherry Tree Nursing Home hit the headlines when a former employee made claims of neglect and undignified treatment of people living there.

Earlier this month, after an independent review into the home was published, a statement from the manager of Cherry Tree Nursing Home, Jennifer Tracey, said: "We recognise there is much in the report we can learn from and it provides useful insight into our own shortcomings."

Background

An independent review published in July into standards at Cherry Tree Nursing Home found it consistently failed to comply with regulations and meet care standards. It also criticised Northern Ireland's health watchdog, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), for the way it handled a complaint by a former employee about the home. According to the authors of the report, the RQIA should have taken a more rigorous approach with the owners of the nursing home. The review was ordered after concerns were raised by a former employee.

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