A Harlow care home has been given the second lowest possible rating by the national watchdog for care after it was found to be chronically understaffed.

Alexandra House, which provides accommodation and nursing care for up to 106 people, some of whom may be living with dementia, was rated ‘requires improvement’ following an unannounced inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

CQC inspectors reported staff at the care home in Hamstel Road, Harlow, were only able to provide basic care due to their low numbers.

One staff member said to inspectors: “We are short staffed, people usually have breakfast in bed this is not their choice, but we cannot manage to get people up."

Another said: “I do not think there is enough staff. Last week we only had four staff and it was like that for three weeks and even with five today we are struggling. We cannot take a break."

However, staff were positive about working at the service despite their concerns about staffing. One member of staff said: "We have good teamwork here. I've been here for a year and I could say the staff are really good and we work well together. The staff are nice and friendly."

The inspectors however did praise the few staff employed for being “very responsive” and “working extremely hard to ensure call bells were answered and people's needs were met.”

Residents at the home provided inspectors with similarly glowing reports of staff.

One said: "I do not have any bother and I do feel very safe. I like it here and the staff are lovely."

However, staff said time pressures meant they did not always have time to spend with people.

One staff member told inspectors: "I think we need one more. Sometimes we don't have enough time to spend with people or to talk to them. We are always rushing."

The care home – previously rated ‘requires improvement in 2019 – was also praised by CQC for its coronavirus measures, implemented to protect residents from the pandemic.

Inspectors wrote: “The service had introduced additional measures to keep people safe during the pandemic. They had updated their policies and followed the latest guidance in relation to the pandemic.

“The service was clean and there were systems in place to manage infection control. Staff had received infection control training and we saw this being put into practice.”

Relatives gave mixed views about the service. One relative told the CQC: "I feel I am told things on a need to know basis which is good enough for me. "Another relative said: "The carers are good the problem is with the management and the poor communication."

Alexandra House has been contacted for comment.

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