NEARLY a third of care homes in the south of the borough are failing patients and residents in one or more key standard, an Advertiser investigation has found.
Of 42 homes inspected by the Care Quality Commission in Purley, Kenley, Coulsdon, Selsdon, Sanderstead and South Croydon within the last year, almost one in three – 13 – failed to meet one or more standards that residents have a "right to expect".
Shortfalls in care include not meeting "standards of treating people with respect and involving them in their care", missing targets for "standards of providing care, treatment and support which meets people's needs" and failing to maintain "standards of caring for people safely and protecting them from harm".
Many more homes failed in one or more key standard during their last health watchdog inspection more than one year ago.
Campaigners for better care say the findings paint a "dire" picture for sick and elderly people at a time when savings in care provision are set to be enforced.
Among those that are failing in one or more key standard are homes which charge elderly people up to £800 a week.
Stuart Routledge, chief executive of Age UK Croydon, said: "It is appalling that any nursing home should fail to protect the dignity and respect of their patients and residents.
"This survey underpins the urgency for social care funding reform so that those older people who struggle daily with chronic ill health, frailty and disability have the peace of mind that they will be well cared for at their time of need.
"In particular, this shows the dire consequences of a social care system that has been under increasing financial pressure over the last eight years and in many areas is now financially stripped to the bone.
"Staff across health and care services have a professional and moral duty to make sure the dignity of their patients and residents is enshrined in every action. This means involving people in decisions about their care, providing care that treats people with respect and helping people to be as independent possible."
The current bill for elderly care is mostly met by pensioners themselves, with funding rules stating if a person has either £23,000 or more in combined savings and assets, they are required to pay the full cost.
With many older people owning properties worth tens of thousands of pounds by the time they require care, many pay with funds raised from assets or savings.
However, if nursing care is required in addition, a weekly allowance of little more than £100 can be claimed from Croydon Council.
Last year (2011/12) the council spent £14.29 million on subsidising residential and nursing care, including the costs of elderly people with mental illness.
The figures, compiled by the Advertiser by analysing every home inspected since December 2011 on the health watchdog Care Quality Commission's website, also includes homes for mental health, learning disability and physical disability patients and residents.
Croham Place, in South Croydon – a home for people with learning and physical disabilities, according to the CQC website – was the worst performing, with improvements needed in four of the five key standards checked by inspectors.
Last financial year (2011/12) Croydon Council spent £4.77 million on care homes for people with mental illness and £20.18 million for those with learning disabilities.
A council spokesman said: "Funding for individual placements comes from central Government and council tax, with contributions also made by those receiving care.
"This is being reduced but Croydon has been successful in ensuring services are provided efficiently and at the best price.
"For homes that have residents funded by the council, our contract compliance team visits to check homes are providing a high standard of care."
A CQC spokesman said the regulator has a range of powers and measures that can be exercised to ensure standards are maintained.
The spokesman said: "CQC inspectors are trained to check whether services meet the national standards set out in the Health and Social Care Act.
"Inspectors also have access to clinical advisers, practising professionals and experts by experience to provide sector specific advice and support where required.
"Where CQC identifies concerns about a service, these are raised with the management of the service and a report from the inspection is published on our website to inform the public about our findings.
"The action taken depends on the level and type of concerns identified, but all concerns are followed up (generally by subsequent unannounced inspections) to check that services have made the required improvements.
"Where a service fails to take the action required, CQC has a number of enforcement powers which it can use. These range from formal warnings to, as a last resort, cancelling the registration of a service."
People with concerns on any care home standards should contact CQC on 03000 61 61 61.Sylvia Castle, who died last week aged 81, lived her final days with dignity. But she knew only too well the lack of care and respect some elderly people face in their final moments. Only a month previously, her daughter, Michele, had pulled her out of being cared for at a Croydon Council-run home because of the lack of staff on hand and the amount of time it took for them to respond to basic needs. Michele, after becoming increasingly dissatisfied, moved her mum to privately-owned Buxton Lodge in Caterham where she received first-class care and died peacefully last week. Sylvia had needed specialist care after a year of being in and out of Croydon University Hospital after having appendicitis, a hip operation and a kidney infection before being diagnosed with vascular dementia, meaning she was eligible for the nursing supplement of just over £100 a week. But Sylvia was lucky she had enough assets and a family to support her switch to a privately-owned home. Michele, of Old Lodge Lane, Purley, said: "After mum died, they dressed her and put flowers on her body, which was lovely, and meant so much to our family. "But in the home she was in before, I'm sure she would not have been so lucky, and that's why we pulled her out. "It took them ages to get her a glass of water. "There is too big a gap between the quality in care homes and at many it seems as if the they are not offering them the things they need in their last years. "I think that the carers themselves are really good people, but I think that sometimes they just don't have the recourses to provide the kinds of things elderly people need, like activities and bingo nights, to make their last days happy ones." Alison Hepburn, 64, is no stranger to the care industry. She has worked in five homes spanning a care career of 33 years. She began work in homes as a cleaner aged 27 and climbed the ladder to eventually become manager of Ingleside Care Home in Kenley up until her retirement. The veteran carer, who also worked at Little Hayes, Morven House and Acorn House homes in Kenley, claims the industry has 'slipped back in real care and dedication', that the health watchdog is no longer as rigorous as it should be and that nursing needs to go 'back to basics'. Mrs Hepburn said: "I think there has been a slip in standards. One of the problems is that too many care homes are run on a shoestring. There are too many that are just being run for money. "But I think inspections are no longer as rigorous anymore. When inspections were conducted by the CSCI [Commission for Social Care Inspection], they were very rigorous. "These governing regulators used to walk around the home, they used to talk to the residents more and they wouldn't leave a stone unchecked. "But the CQC just don't seem to do that. I think there is a complacency within the inspection system and in some of the homes they inspect these days." Mrs Hepburn said modern NVQ qualifications had moved too far away from the basics of care in favour of a 'box-ticking' culture. She added: "I don't think people who are going into the caring industry know as much about it and there doesn't seem to be the dedication we had back in our day. "The key to having a successful team is creating a good relationship between proprietor and manager, manager and the rest of the staff. Without that, you are never going to get the love, respect and kindness patients need." Despite needing to make £2.1 million of savings, Croydon Council insists care standards will not be impacted. A council spokesman said: "There is no specific policy to reduce funding. However, savings of £2.1 million are planned in the current financial year, and this is in respect of renegotiating contract fees. "This is not affecting the number of placements. If someone meets the council's eligibility criteria and they are assessed as requiring residential care then the council will provide that type of placement. "These savings were agreed as part of the council tax setting process that was agreed by full council for 2012/13. "This is an efficiency saving. Individuals will still receive the service they have been assessed to receive." Regarding its role of working with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to ensure homes within the borough maintain high standards, the spokesman added: "Croydon Council updates CQC regularly on providers operating in the borough and has a series of measures in place to ensure residents receive good and safe care. "For example, we have a care support team which is unique in London in providing support to care homes, in the form of advice and training on issues such as care plans and medication. "The council offers care home managers training in identifying whether their home is at risk of developing abusive or inappropriate behaviour." The 13 care homes in the south of Croydon found to not be meeting one or more key standard in the last year and what they failed in: KENLEY: Acorn Lodge in Abbots Lane Inspected: July 2012 Failed to meet one target: Standards of caring for people safely and protecting them SANDERSTEAD: Wells Place in Sanderstead Road Inspected: November 2012 Failed to meet two targets: Standards of treating people with respect and involving them in their care and standards of providing care, treatment and support PURLEY: Purley View Nursing Home in Brighton Road Inspected: October 2012 Failed to meet one target: Standards of providing care, treatment and support Better Care Residential Home in Brighton Road Inspected: April 2012 Failed to meet one target: Staffing Russell Villa in Russell Hill Inspected: April 2012 Failed to meet one target: Standards of caring for people safely Beech Tree Care Home in Plough Lane Inspected: August 2012 Failed to meet three targets: Standards of caring for people safely, standards of staffing and standards of management Gate Lodge in Upper Woodcote Village Inspected: September 2012 Failed to meet two targets: Standards of treating people with respect and involving them in their care, standards of providing care, treatment and support SOUTH CROYDON: Southleigh Community Independent Hospital in Brighton Road Inspected: December 2011 Failed to meet one target: Standards of providing care, treatment and support Mary's Home in Warham Road Inspected: September 2012 Failed to meet one target: Standards of management Jordan Lodge in Wareham Road [Correct spelling] Inspected: January 2012 Failed to meet three targets: Standards of providing care, treatment and support, standards of caring for people safely and standards of management Oban House in Bramley Hill Inspected: September 2012 Failed to meet two targets: Standards of caring for people safely and staffing Tudor House Nursing Home in Birdhurst Road Inspected: February 2012 Failed to meet one target: Standards of staffing Croham Place in Wisborough Road Inspected: October 2012 Failed to meet four targets: Standards of treating people with respect and involving them in their care, standards of providing care, treatment and support which meets people's needs, standards of staffing and standards of management