Councillors have spoken of their disappointment after a flagship care home in Mildenhall was found to have a number of failings over in-patient care.
In a critical report the Care Quality Commission found Mildenhall Lodge to be providing inadequate meals to patients, leaving some hungry and thirsty on the wards, and call bells were left unanswered for almost 15 minutes when it was inspected in July.
The home in St Johns Close was the first of ten new homes to be opened as part of a £60 million deal between private provider Care UK and Suffolk County Council.
Cllr James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council and county councillor for Mildenhall, said: “There is no excuse for poor patient care. It is not acceptable and it is not what we would expect for anyone.
“It is disappointing that this has come to light. Let’s hope Cure UK can step up to the plate.”
Of the five standards inspected at Mildenhall Lodge by the CQC, only one met the required standard and three were judged as ‘action needed’.
The report found too few staff were present on the wards to cope with patients’ needs and were not being informed about the dietary needs of patients, some of whom suffer from diabetes.
One patient was hospitalised after eating food which had not been cut up properly, a requirement specified in their care plan.
The report also raised concerns about the care of patients suffering from dementia, and the home’s lack of activities for patients.
Suffolk county councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer, a firm opposer of Care UK’s take-over, has expressed outrage at the report’s findings.
He said: “We do not believe in the privatisation of care for vulnerable elderly people. There are a lot of concerns about their ability to speak for themselves.
“My sincere hope would be that through intervention they will put every endeavour into making it better.”
The private provider has recently opened another care home, Davers Court in Bury, and is due to open two others in Stowmarket and Bury next year.
Dr Peter Kilner, whose mother-in-law was a resident at Davers Court in Bury under its previous operators, said he and wife Julie were very happy with the care she had received.
“At the time Care UK took over our interest was to express how good Davers Court was, and we were dismayed that it was disbanded,” he said.
“The staff were extremely good and treated the residents with respect and dignity, and it is not always easy when you are dealing with old folks.”
Dr Kilner said he and Julie, a care home nurse in Stowmarket, had tried to avoid the private provider taking control of the homes.
“We felt the homes would not give such a high level of care if they were taken over,” he said.
Julie Kilner said: “When we were faced with the closure of Davers Court, people were putting the point forward that bigger homes were better. We were not convinced by that at all.
“The social services and carers there were trained well, and the ratio of patients to carers was good. It is a shame it has all changed.
“Now a lot of homes do not have the time or the staff, and patients we see do complain.”
Cllr Gary Green, county councillor for Stowmarket North and Stowupland, said: “Suffolk County Council expects the highest standards of care for its residents and Care UK has not made that in Mildenhall.
“The company will be reminded of its responsibilities and will do what it needs to do to put it right.
“I will keep a very close eye on the new home in Cedars Park to make sure it is up to the high standards it should be.”