Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland care home residents shared underwear for months after ban on practice

Clifton Nursing Home in north Belfast
Clifton Nursing Home in north Belfast

By Lisa Smyth

A care home owned by Runwood Homes has been found to be using communal net underwear seven months after it was told to cease the practice.

A health inspector visited Clifton Nursing Home in June last year and discovered that residents there were being forced to share underwear.

Management at the north Belfast home was handed a notice to ensure that net pants, stockings and tights are provided for each patient's individual use and not used communally.

However, it can be revealed that when the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) returned in January of this year, it found evidence that communal underwear was still in use.

The inspector also uncovered failings in the way pressure relieving mattresses were used.

This was also raised as a concern during the visit last June.

A subsequent inspection of the home in August did not check whether both issues had been addressed.

Relatives of residents also raised concerns over staffing levels and continuity of care at the home, recurrent issues in a number of facilities owned by Runwood Homes.

One person said that staff levels appeared to be fine during the day, but "night staffing seems less adequate". They continued: "Clothes go missing and there seems to be less staff and less management at night."

Another relative said: "I am concerned regarding staff turnover, continuity of care is impacted by change of staff or agency. Manager turnover is a concern." The RQIA inspector also identified a lack of household and clinical waste bins throughout the home, and questioned whether there would be adequate cleaning products to deal with an infection outbreak.

He also found kitchenette doors wedged open throughout the home, which presented a risk to residents and staff in the event of a fire. This was an issue also highlighted in the inspection last June.

The latest RQIA inspection of Clifton Nursing Home uncovered examples of good practice and no enforcement action was taken as a result.

Assurances were also given by Runwood Homes that the practice of using shared net underwear would cease immediately.

Despite this, the findings of the January inspection have cast a shadow over the official opening of a new residential care unit at Dunmurry Manor, also owned by Runwood Homes.

The firm held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the troubled facility last week as it attempts to move on from a series of shocking failings at a number of its homes across Northern Ireland.

It is currently at the centre of a police probe into allegations of abuse and neglect at Dunmurry Manor following on from the publication of the findings of an investigation into conditions at the home.

Eddie Lynch, the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, was damning in his assessment of the management of the facility, highlighting a number of serious issues, including the fact that staff had to buy their own blood pressure monitors.

Mr Lynch also raised concerns over the dignity of residents of Dunmurry Manor and revealed one woman had a pressure sore so deep that her bone was exposed.

Runwood Homes did not respond to a request for comment.

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