A care home user has spoken of her negative experience with a ‘good’ rated care home in Bermondsey. 

Speaking at a health and social care scrutiny commission meeting last week (January 21), Esmé Dobson, whose husband suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s, described a host of issues she experienced with Bluegrove House, where her husband stayed for two years from 2015 to 2017.  

The home specialises in dementia care and is run by the Anchor Hanover Group.

She told the commission of residents about never being brought outside, despite being right beside Southwark Park, while there was no permanent activities coordinator.  

“I always said once you moved in there, you didn’t ever move out.  

“It was all a bit tragic because Bluegrove House is located opposite Southwark Park, which is a beautiful park, and they didn’t even take them over the road. 

“They pretended to go to Eastbourne one day, which makes me sad. 

“I feel this is something that could be monitored quite easily by someone sitting at Southwark Council, they can just ask for a monthly report of activities and outings,” she said.  

Mrs Dobson told of broken lifts, dishwashers, and washing machines, and workers acting as “gatekeepers” by deciding whether or not residents should go to the GP.  

“I can think of a particular case where one of the few residents who didn’t have dementia said he didn’t feel well and that he wanted to see a GP.  

“The member of staff dismissed him and said ‘you’re exaggerating, you don’t need to see a GP’.” 

One woman was left unable to stay in her bed after the lift broke down. 

“The lifts would break down on a regular basis. If someone was on the first or second floor and the lift broke down they literally couldn’t get to their hospital appointment.  

“The staff couldn’t get their trollies of food up to the second floor.  

“There were even stupid occasions where the lift would break down in the middle of the day and some poor old lady with dementia, who had been on the ground floor at that time, couldn’t get back up to her bedroom. 

“She was put in a spare room on the ground floor and was wandering around even more confused than usual,” she said.  

Mrs Dobson said she was once forced to go to B&Q to buy a radiator because her husband’s room was “freezing cold”, adding “none of this was dementia friendly”.  

She said that there were “a lot of good carers at Bluegrove but there were some bad eggs too”, adding that one team leader’s behaviour made her “uncomfortable on many occasions”.  

“When I phoned the charity Elder Abuse and outlined some of the issues, they said they were of the opinion that it was abusive behaviour but Southwark Council decided that it was not abusive, that it was a quality of care issue.  

“And it was dealt with by the commissioning team not the safeguarding team,” Mrs Dobson said.  

She faced further problems when she met with Anchor, who ran the home, during which she was accused of “breaching the data protection Act” by a manager.  

“I decided to seek legal advice because I was being accused of breaking the law.  

“Everything changed at that point; a different regional manager came in, we had a meeting, my friend was allowed to attend and I received a long grovelling apology from Anchor,” Mrs Dobson told the committee.  

Jane Darani, director of care services London and Surrey for Bluegrove House, said: “Our residents’ wellbeing is paramount and we welcome feedback from residents and their families.  

“The concerns referenced were investigated between 2015 and 2017 and were fully addressed at the time.  

“We apologised to the family involved and acknowledged that there were elements of the service which did not provide the high standards of care we expect.  

“A robust action plan and extensive training for all the staff was immediately introduced at the home.  

 “The home has since performed strongly in a nationwide care standards survey, Your Care Rating, which asks residents to comment on the care they receive.   

“The 2018/2019 results show the home was given an overall performance rating score of 909 out of 1,000 by residents, which is well above the national average of 882.  

“The Your Care Rating survey is the country’s largest and most authoritative survey of care home residents. 

 “We are fully committed to providing high standards of care and homes where people love living in later life.” 

Members of the commission were concerned these issues were happening at ‘good’ rated care home. 

Vice-chair David Noakes said: “It’s CQC’s job to inspect the homes, but obviously Southwark is placing people into the home so we have a duty of care as well. 

“Even though it’s historic, how do we know it’s not going on today?” 

Councillor Victoria Olisa, chair of the commission, suggested getting an update from the Bluegrove House.

She said: “We need to know that our residents are getting a good service within the borough – and how do we know without doing our own inspections?”

Genette Laws, director of commissioning at the council, said: “I can give assurance that within the last six months all the old people’s care homes have been visited.

“I’m happy to share those reports on a confidential basis because they are contract monitoring reports.

“I can also assure you that we have a risk-based programme for visiting all of our contracted providers because we want to be assured that our people are safe.

“The lay inspections have been continuing and intend to continue.”