Inspectors halt work of community care firm over 'serious risk' to patient safety
An agency that provides care in the community has been stopped from operating with immediate effect amid concerns it posed a "serious risk" to the safety of clients.
Northern Ireland's health watchdog went to court to strip Gosna Care Agency Ltd of its registration after it discovered some staff weren't registered with the relevant professional body.
It is only the second time the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) has taken such action, such was the level of concern about the immediate risk to patients.
It also comes more than a year after the regulator first raised concerns about the safety of the care being provided by Gosna Care.
The agency, based in south Belfast, provides personal care to people with physical disabilities, cancer and dementia, in their own homes.
The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) contacted the RQIA on October 15 to raise concerns regarding possible illegal working practices by the community care provider. The professional body told the RQIA it suspected that some Gosna Care staff were caring for people in their own homes while using other people's work permits.
The RQIA subsequently contacted the South Eastern Health Trust and it emerged the firm was under a performance review due to non-reporting of incidents relating to short call times, variances in rotas, the undertaking of tasks not outlined in the timetable of service, and poor communication.
An unannounced inspection was carried out on October 21 and a number of issues were uncovered. These included the fact that the names of care workers who had undertaken visits did not correspond to rotas.
The RQIA said the registered person was "knowingly allowing staff to care for vulnerable people without the appropriate checks and training being undertaken". As a result, the RQIA said "this poses a risk to service users as they will be unaware of who is attending their home to provide personal care".
The inspectors also found two members of staff had not applied to the NISCC, there were no Access NI background checks or recruitment records for one worker, and said that "this poses an unacceptable risk to vulnerable adults".
According to Gosna Care's website it provides "a range of fully vetted, highly experienced health and social care staff even at short notice".
The website continues: "The Gosna Care team will deliver a complete service with professionalism, friendliness, reliability and attention to detail."
In June last year, the RQIA discovered Gosna Care was not carrying out appropriate pre-employment checks. Staff had also not provided evidence that they had business insurance to use their cars for work.
A report from an unannounced inspection in June 2018 said the RQIA also found that a member of staff's work permit was out-of-date.
It continued: "The user consultation officer was advised by the service users and relatives interviewed that there were some concerns regarding the safety of care being provided by Gosna Care Agency.
"One concern related to new carers not being introduced to the service user by a regular member of staff or manager; this was felt to be important in terms of the service user's security.
"Consistency of carers was also raised as a concern as it would enable the carers to become familiar with the care needs of the service user and develop a good relationship.
"In regards to training, the majority of the people interviewed were satisfied. However, one service user did raise concerns regarding infection control practices."
Comments from patients and their families included the fact it was "hard to get a rapport as the carers change a lot", "no-one contacts me from the office (as) to how things are" and "would prefer a smaller team as they help me with showering".
An RQIA spokesman said it cancelled the registration of Florence Tanyanyiwa, the person responsible for running Gosna Care, on October 24.
He said: "We have been working with this provider since late August to improve practice in a number of areas of leadership and management which we had identified on inspection.
"However, on October 15 we were advised by our colleagues in the NISCC that there were potentially a number of care workers employed in the agency who were working illegally using other people's work permits.
"As a result of this information, our inspector visited the agency on October 21.
"During this inspection we were unable to verify that Ms Tanyanyiwa had effective procedures in place to ensure the identity of her employees.
"RQIA therefore made an urgent application to a Justice of the Peace to cancel Ms Tanyanyiwa's registration and this was granted on October 23."
In August 2017, the RQIA took the unprecedented step of removing the registration of Ashbrooke Care Home in Enniskillen with immediate effect. It came after inspectors uncovered failings the inspector described as the worst he had ever seen.