A YORK care business was rated as inadequate following an inspection which took place a month before it ceased trading.

The Care Quality Commission downgraded Riccall Carers Ltd from ‘good’, identifying breaches in relation to safe care and treatment, safeguarding, governance and staffing.

The CQC inspection report which has now been published concludes: “The overall rating for this service is ‘inadequate’ and the service is therefore in ‘special measures’.”

The family-owned business, based at Escrick Business Park, was inspected on May 25. Directors instructed Begbies Traynor to help place the company into liquidation in June, citing pressures within the care sector, exacerbated by the pandemic.

The home care agency provided personal visits to 176 private and local authority-funded elderly and vulnerable clients in York and Selby.

The report stated people were not considered to be safe and ‘were at risk of avoidable harm’. It said there was no formal process for reporting or following-up on accidents, and incidents had occurred which registered people were unaware of, including a person described as having nearly choked.

Incidents were not consistently reviewed to establish what had happened and whether lessons could be learnt, while risk assessments were not consistently in place, including for risks relating to Covid19, bed rails and choking.

Inspectors found ‘numerous people’ had not received medications as prescribed, including pain relief and for management of diabetes, with some adversely affected.

“When medicines had not been administered correctly, appropriate follow-up actions had not always been taken such as seeking the advice of a healthcare professional,” they noted.

Staff who administered medicines had not always been trained while the competency of staff who had undertaken training was not routinely assessed.

People were not protected from future harm because safeguarding concerns had not always been raised when there were concerns about a person’s well-being, said inspectors.

Service users said calls were routinely late, missed or cancelled, and relatives described repeated requests to provide support due to carers being unavailable. People didn’t know which staff member was coming to support them, and rotas were often left blank, affecting continuity of care.

On occasions, male staff were supporting people who had requested the support of females only.

Staff described not having sufficient time between calls and said this meant some people missed their medication.

Staff advised they had undertaken training in infection control and had access to appropriate PPE

Riccall Carers held contracts with City of York Council, North Yorkshire County Council and privately-funded clients.

When the business announced it was going into liquidation last month, director Helen Thompson said at the time: “It is very sad for us to see the end of the business which my parents started 23 years ago.

“Unfortunately, the growing demand for our services has coincided with ongoing challenges over staffing with further disruption caused as a result of the Covid outbreak. It has been difficult to retain team spirit and integrate new staff during the series of lockdowns since March 2020.

“Following extended periods of remote working, we have simply been unable to recover as a cohesive team and keep up with the pace of change required of us.”

The former directors of Riccall Carers told The Press: “Following a quality and performance review towards the end of 2020, we were in the process of implementing an improvement plan whilst at the same time carefully monitoring the company’s financial position. We worked closely with both local authorities keeping them informed of the situation and our teams, both in the office and community, worked extremely hard to achieve care visits.

“Unfortunately, with the effects of the pandemic resulting in recruitment challenges and shortages of carers due to shielding, childcare issues, and absences from burn-out, we were in a position of constant fire-fighting. We were working with the CQC which set urgent actions after the inspection which we achieved, unfortunately, the business had become insolvent and a decision had to be made on its continuation.

“It is no secret that the social care sector is in great difficulty, and, sadly, as with many other providers, we could not overcome the challenges we faced. We remain extremely proud of our teams, many of whom continue to work in care for the councils and other providers, delivering much needed support to vulnerable people. We also thank the CQC and local authorities for their support through what has been an extremely difficult 16 months.”