WIDESPREAD and significant shortfalls in leadership have been slammed by a healthcare watchdog during the first inspection of a Winsford home care agency.

Starcare Rural, which provides personal care to around 200 adults with physical and mental health needs living in their own homes, has been ordered to improve by the Care Quality Commission.

The agency on Barlow Drive was rated 'inadequate' for leadership and 'requires improvement' for safety, effectiveness, care and responsiveness.

Management of the service was criticised for failing to provide sufficient staff, putting the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people at risk.

"Some aspects of the service were not always safe," said an inspector in a detailed report. "There was an increased risk that people could be harmed.

"The punctuality and reliability of care staff was consistently poor. On occasion staff were expected to be in more than one place at once.

"People told us that issues with staffing made them feel unsafe and vulnerable."

People did not receive their meals or medication on time, inspectors discovered, and risk assessments for key medical conditions including epilepsy and diabetes were inadequate.

"Medicines management was not based on current best practice and there was a risk that medicines may not be given safely," said inspectors.

"The effectiveness of people's care, treatment and support did not always achieve good outcomes or was inconsistent.

"Due to the late or irregular calls, some people did not feel that they were supported to remain healthy."

One client told inspectors: "I'm insulin dependent and need to have my medication at 8.30am then eat my breakfast, not at 10am."

Another complained: "I can't sleep when I don't know who is coming. It preys on my mind wondering if they're coming or not."

Clients were keen to stress that carers were kind and caring and any deficiencies in the standard of care were due to poor organisation and inadequate management.

Inspectors added: "There were widespread and significant shortfalls in service leadership. Leaders and the culture they created did not assure the delivery of high quality care. Some regulations were not met.

"Risks to people's health, safety and wellbeing was not always effectively managed through ongoing monitoring of the service."

Inspectors said the agency failed to ensure that each client received appropriate person-centred care that was based on their needs and preferences.

They care provider also failed to demonstrate that they had sufficient staff to meet the needs of the people using the service and to provide safe care at all times.

The agency has been ordered to send a report to the CQC giving details of an actioni plan to remedy the shortcomings.

Enforcement action has been taken following the agency's failure to ensure that they had adequate or robust systems and processes in place to assess and monitor the service.

The agency has two months to comply with this regulation

Paula Pedlow, Starcare managing director said: “Starcare have been providing care services to people in the area since 2008.  It is our company ethos to provide excellent care and to ensure the safety of all the people we support. 

“We are extremely disappointed with the outcome of our latest Care Quality Commission inspection for our rural branch. 

“The results from this inspection are contrary to the standards we have set for ourselves and we have already implemented substantial actions to fall in line with our standards, to address the issues raised. 

“We are working closely with our partners to ensure that we achieve our goals of providing an outstanding service to our clients.

“We wish to reassure all of our clients and families that through the improved actions we continue to  introduce, we are able to provide the quality service which is always expected from us.”