A service which provides drug and alcohol treatment to people across Blackburn with Darwen who misuse substances has been rated as ‘requires improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

An inspection of Spark, or the Calico Group at St John’s Court, which is run by Delphi Medical Consultants Ltd, was carried out in August, and was the first inspection to be undertaken at the service since the new providers took over from Inspire in April 2022.

The CQC found that of the five key areas, ‘safe’, ‘effective’ and ‘well-led’ all needed improvements, with the areas of ‘caring’ and ‘responsive’ being rated as good.

In a report published earlier this week, inspectors said staff did not assess and manage risk well for all clients; client records were not complete and contemporaneous; the service did not develop holistic, recovery-oriented care plans informed by a comprehensive assessment for all clients; staff did not receive all training relevant for their role; and the governance processes did not ensure that its procedures ran smoothly.

It went on: “We checked the weekly clinic room checks from November 2022 and found there were two weekly checks not completed and the cleaning section not completed for four weeks.

“This meant we did not know if the cleaning had been completed or the form not completed fully.

“Managers did not make sure all bank and agency staff had a full induction and understood the service before starting their shift.

“There were no formal arrangements for bank or agency inductions, no checklists in place which meant staff would not receive a consistent induction.

“Staff had not completed and kept up to date with their mandatory training, which meant staff did not have the training and skills to respond to people in an emergency.”

Inspectors also found learning disability and autism training was not listed as a mandatory course, not all clients had a current risk assessment, and staff did not keep detailed records of clients' care and treatment.

There were also discrepancies in ensuring clients had a full physical health assessment and knew about any physical health problems and there was a backlog in blood borne virus screening.

Not all staff received and kept up to date with training in the Mental Capacity Act, with the report noting that only 48 per cent of staff that had completed training in that area.

The report added: “There was not a clear policy on the Mental Capacity Act, which staff could describe and knew how to access.”

In terms of the way the service was led, the CQC observed that it did not have a staff group that felt positive, satisfied and had low levels of stress.

Inspectors said that staff found the challenges with a new electronic record system difficult as client records did not migrate over from the previous provider which led to a high workload of having to re-do risk assessments and care plans for clients and understand the new system.

The report stated: “Some staff felt deskilled as their role was different with this provider compared to the last provider. However, the staff survey results showed that results were positive with 7.6 out of 10 average in the responses.”

As a result of the ‘requires improvement’ rating the CQC told Spark it must ensure staff receive relevant training, including on learning disabilities, autism, substance misuse awareness, lone worker working and Mental Capacity Act training.

The service must also ensure that records are complete and contemporaneous including safeguarding referrals, capacity assessments and best interest decisions, and must ensure it offers blood borne virus screening to clients within the service and complete the screening if clients consent.

Tom Woodcock, director of treatment and recovery at The Calico Group, which heads up the Spark collaborative service, said: "We are disappointed with the overall result but accept the findings and already have a robust improvement plan in place to address gaps that were identified. 

"The inspection also highlighted that the care we provide and our responsiveness to people's needs are of a good quality, which is important. We want anybody who needs help with drug or alcohol addiction to have the confidence that when they contact Spark, they will receive the very best support."