INSPECTORS have rated a care home as 'requires improvement' and have advised management on several areas that need work.

The Care Quality Commission undertook a targeted inspection of Birch Hall Care Centre, Darwen, after receiving concerns in relation to the management of medicines, staffing, activities, quality assurance systems and the management of the home.

Previously rated as 'good', the centre has been downgraded to 'requires improvement' as inspectors found a number of shortfalls including:

- The provider's quality assurance systems, audits and action plans were ineffective and there had been a lack of oversight by the provider. There were shortfalls in areas such as medicines management, care planning, risk management and record keeping that could place people at risk of not receiving proper and safe care.

- Accidents and incidents were not consistently analysed to identify action, patterns or themes that could prevent future risk. The provider's systems to manage safeguarding incidents were ineffective. The provider had failed to notify CQC and local commissioners about recent incidents that had occurred. The management team had identified this shortfall and were addressing the issue.

- Care plans were not consistent and sufficient, in their detail, nor were they person centred. Some were well written and provided staff with clear guidance about people's needs. However, others failed to accurately reflect the care and support people were receiving or that they required. This could result in people not receiving the care they needed or wanted.

- Record keeping was inconsistent across the units. Some records were incomplete and inaccurate whilst others were detailed and completed in full.

- Staff morale was low, and staff felt stressed and unsettled. However, they understood their individual responsibilities and contributions to service delivery and were supportive of the management team to ensure improvements were made.

The home was in dialogue with the CQC during and after the inspection and confirmed action was being taken to review the auditing system, to address the shortfalls and to improve safety in the service.

An improvement plan was in place and shared with commissioners.

A spokesperson for Birch Hall Care Centre said: "The role of the Care Quality Commission is to help maintain standards within the care industry and we welcome their advice on how improvements can be made at Birch Hall.

"We also take pride in the positive comments in the CQC report from residents, which more accurately reflect the atmosphere within the home, and the fact that the CQC reports ‘relatives were confident their family members were safe and made positive comments about the care and support provided by staff.’

"Following the inspection in September we undertook a review of all procedures and activities across the home. The management team at the home changed and we are currently making substantial improvements to address the points raised by the CQC inspection, and reinstate the previous high standards at the home.

"Birch Hall is rated as ‘good’ for both effective engagement with residents and the care it provides, and these are two areas which impact greatly on the day-to-day life of residents.

"The overall CQC rating of ‘requires improvement’ is one that we accepted and acted upon immediately.

"Along with many other nursing and care homes across the UK we face huge challenges in recruiting and retaining the staff we need to operate effectively, in the face of COVID factors and competition from other sectors including retail and hospitality.

"Our primary concern has always been to ensure residents are safe and happy, and that family members are confident they are receiving a good standard of care. We now have an action plan in place to address the issues raised by the CQC and are working hard to ensure we regain our previous good assessment."