Campaigners were left “speechless” after a watchdog chief accused of failings over the Covid ban on care home visits was given a top regulatory job.
The outcry came after Kate Terroni, the Care Quality Commission’s £165,000-a-year chief inspector of adult social care, was made the regulator’s deputy chief executive.
Just weeks earlier, Ms Terroni, who had been responsible for the UK’s 15,000 registered care homes, issued a public apology over the crisis.
She admitted: “We could and should have done better when listening and acting on concerns raised by whistleblowers and our own staff.” During the Covid lockdowns, tens of thousands of elderly, sick and vulnerable care home residents died frightened and alone, after bosses had ignored guidance and banned visits from relatives.
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Despite desperate pleas from families, hundreds of thousands were locked out as homes and hospitals made their own rules.
One family member said of Ms Terroni’s promotion: “I am speechless. The CQC stood back and enabled care home managers to set the rules which suited them, ignoring pleas for our loved ones.”
Actress Ruthie Henshall, who was prevented from seeing her dying mother, spearheaded a grassroots drive to get homes to admit relatives.
Diane Mayhew and Jenny Morrison, co-founders of Rights for Residents, said: “Many devastated families who reached out to the CQC for support with visiting issues have felt completely let down by their failure to act on their behalf.
“Throughout the pandemic and beyond, it has become clear the CQC needs a complete overhaul if we are to have an effective regulator that is fit for purpose in the future. In her new post as deputy chief executive, we hope Kate Terroni will urgently tackle the issues she herself has highlighted.”
The scandal prompted care minister Helen Whately to threaten legislation, saying: “What we have at the moment isn’t working. I want families to be able to visit their loved ones.”
During the crisis, the CQC and the Department of Health and Social Care were powerless to act because no law exists to ensure homes open up.
In some instances, bans still persist. More than three years on, families are still demanding unrestricted, face-to-face contact in care settings which is enforceable in the courts.
Since last March, official guidance has stated there should be no restrictions on visiting access.
However, some 200 care homes are known to refuse or limit visits – and the real number is thought to be much higher.
The CQC said the duties and responsibilities of Ms Terroni’s new role included “transformation, culture change and quality improvement” across the organisation. It refused to reveal her taxpayer-funded salary.