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Southern Trust challenged on care home closure

Trust silent on why letter of concern wasn’t shared with Department of Health or RQIA

Valley Nursing Home in Clogher

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust failed to share a letter of concern received from the Valley Nursing Home service provider with the Department of Health, or the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), despite the significant issues set out  in it, it has emerged.

While the correspondence was acknowledged, no action was taken on the contents, and there was no documented further engagement.

The letter, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, was sent to the Southern Trust’s interim director of older people and primary care from MPS Care Group,  setting out a series of points and highlighting the shifting of residents, some of whom who sadly passed away in the aftermath of the Clogher home’s closure.

Released documents show the letter was sent on January 4, 2021, and acknowledged by email the same day, and while this states concerns will be addressed in due course, no further engagement is noted.

The letter alleged the RQIA made the “very precarious and dangerous decision to remove registration and effectively therefore removing ability to care for clients … resulting in clients being ‘decanted’ to other facilities … regrettably, some have passed away, no doubt through the stress of this decision and the subsequent move”.

It continues: “Many of your staff and colleagues have indicated that they find it unbelievable this action has been allowed without challenge by any parties or the trusts on behalf of placed clients.

“It remains clear that at no time the regulator took into account the pronounced effect the Covid-19 outbreak at the Valley had on staffing on the day of inspection … If the normal course of events had been allowed without interference, the home would have by now transferred to a new registered provider, and the clients would have still been in residence.”

MPS Care Group went on to further allege: “The plain fact is the actions of RQIA staff, we believe possibly working with third parties, compromised the commercial transaction being made to sell the home to the proposed purchaser.”

It is contended financial support measures available to the Valley Nursing Home by way of resilience payments “ultimately never materialised in much needed times”.

The letter points to a very small window of opportunity for the trusts to “assert their mandated role in caring for the whole wellbeing of placed clients remaining at the Valley [home] and in their care and make an urgent application to the RQIA, to preserve the human rights of these individuals and their right to live where they believe they are best looked after and cared for, by asking for a stay in de-registration, and the trusts applying to become the care provider, therefore allowing residents to remain in their home”.

It further contends: “If the Trusts should deem this not their responsibility or decline to do so and see fit not to uphold residents’ human rights … this will mean that not only will the residents be moved, the stress may lead to further demise.”

Concluding, the letter alleges: “This whole process has in our opinion has been absolutely incredulous. There quite clearly have been actions taken by a regulator who has acted outside its mandate and the trusts, to date, have failed to uphold the human rights of its residents at the Valley.”

The Department was asked on what date it learned of the letter and to provide a breakdown of all engagement which flowed as a result.

They responded: “The Department has no record of receiving a copy of the letter referred to and therefore cannot comment further.”

Likewise, an RQIA spokesperson advised there is no record of receiving the correspondence.

The Southern Trust was asked why it failed to share the letter with the Department of Health and RQIA, particularity given the contents, and why no follow-up action was taken as a result of the concerns raised.

While not answering this question, a spokesperson said it had nothing to add to a previous statement, which read: “In late 2020, the Trust were advised that unfortunately the sale of the home to another provider would not be proceeding.

“The owner then asked the Trust to consider buying the home and operating it under Trust management.

“At that late stage, this was not a feasible proposition, given the imminent date of de-registration.”

It was also pointed out as per the contract with independent sector providers for nursing home placements, the trust is not funded to directly provide nursing home placements.

The PSNI have confirmed they are now formally in receipt of the letter.

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