CQC: Check your equipment
We are frequently reminded to test our smoke alarms at home and we have all heard those adverts that remind us of the potential for catastrophic consequences should we fail to do so. Yet few of us actually test our alarms as frequently as we ought to – we all have busy lives and things like testing alarms are not high on our agenda – but excuses simply won’t cut it when it comes to regulation in care homes. Indeed, checking of equipment and a failure to do so appears to have been high on CQC’s agenda recently with several reports criticising providers for things like flat batteries and safety equipment not being fit for purpose.
Regulations 12 and 15 of the Health and Social Care Act (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 require providers to maintain equipment and ensure that it is suitable for purpose and we have seen many examples where CQC has identified that this has not been done. With CQC reports regularly coming under the media spotlight, providers are finding themselves being publically named and shamed for failings which can be so easily avoided.
Examples of equipment that should be regularly checked include:
- Defibrillators – we have seen many examples cited in CQC reports where defibrillators have been entirely unfit for purpose, perhaps because batteries have gone flat or pads are not in place so they can’t be used in an emergency;
- Thermometers – they are used in many aspects of care delivery – in nursing homes to check service user temperatures; in the kitchen to check that food is safe; in the medicines fridge to ensure that medicines are safely stored – but we have seen so many providers criticised, either because temperatures are not where they should be or because the equipment used to check the temperature is faulty and hasn’t been correctly maintained;
- Weighing scales – digital scales should be calibrated regularly to ensure that readings remain accurate. We have seen several examples where service user weights have significantly fluctuated but are recorded blindly by staff without reference to professional services. However, quite often weight recordings are inaccurate because the equipment used to measure the weight is faulty and has not been adequately maintained;
- Mattresses – these are another example where CQC can easily find fault and frequently does so. It is not difficult to find a CQC inspection report where CQC has found that pressure mattresses are not set to the correct weight and not fit for purpose. With pressure sores a significant cause for criticism in care homes and increasingly leading to negligence claims, simple checks of mattresses can have a major impact on a service user’s wellbeing and a provider’s regulatory compliance;
- Items such as blood pressure monitoring systems and syringe drivers should always be checked frequently to ensure that the batteries are still working and that the devices are fit for purpose;
- Sensor mats – In a recent case, a care provider had failed to carry out regular checks of a sensor mat that was in place to alert staff if a service user suffering from epilepsy suffered a seizure at night. Tragically, the mat had been unplugged, the batteries had been flat and the service user had died as a result of a seizure that staff had failed to notice because the equipment designed to alert them had not been adequately maintained.
This case is just one example of a tragedy, which could so easily have been prevented and where the checking of equipment could have potentially saved a life. Checking of equipment should form part of a provider’s regular, standard audits and its importance should not be underestimated. Although a simple task, in our experience this is one of the things most frequently overlooked by providers (particularly in respect of equipment which is not regularly used). However, checking of equipment is an easy win and can set the tone for a good CQC inspection.