NURSING home staff are being investigated over accusations of abuse towards residents. 

Winterbrook Nursing Home in Cholsey is the subject of a criminal probe after police were called out to the home on June 23.

The investigation was mentioned in a new report released by healthcare regulator the Care Quality Commission, which was tipped off about safety concerns and has now rated the service ‘inadequate’.

Thames Valley Police spokesman James Williams confirmed the force is investigating ‘common assault offences, ill treatment by care provider and ill treatment by care workers’, but said no arrests have been made at this stage.

The CQC’s report, released last week, said: "The inspection was prompted in part by concerns raised by the provider with the local authority safeguarding team relating to the alleged abuse of people living at the service.

"The concerns are subject to a criminal investigation and as a result this inspection did not examine the circumstances of the concerns."

The care home can provide accommodation and nursing care for up to 41 people over the age of 65, including those with dementia and disabilities, and was inspected by the CQC on July 20.

At that time, there were 32 people using its service. 

In response to the report Paul Kelly, operations director at Winterbrook Nursing Home, said his team were working to achieve 'a new culture of care.

He said: "We apologise unreservedly to everyone connected with Winterbrook, in particular residents and their families.

“We were outraged and saddened by the abuse allegations brought to our attention.

"All members of staff associated in any way with this behaviour were either dismissed or resigned as soon as we were notified of the allegations. 

“It is our highest priority to resolve urgently each and every one of the problem areas identified with by the CQC.  

"We have drawn up a detailed, comprehensive and robust action plan...We have identified the underlying managerial deficiencies and a new acting manager has been appointed.

"Care quality at Winterbrook has historically been good and I personally will be present at Winterbrook every day until the quality returns to the standard that all our residents and their families expect.”

The CQC's report rates Winterbrook as 'inadequate' overall and in categories of safety and leadership, and 'requires improvement' for the remaining three categories.

Inadequate is the lowest rating handed out by the CQC, and means the care home has been forced into 'special measures' to take action.

The report said: "A culture that did not treat people with dignity and respect had developed and people were not always treated in a kind and caring manner.

"People were not always protected from abuse and improper treatment and were not confident to raise concerns.

"People did not always feel confident to make a complaint. Where complaints were received they were not always responded to and managed effectively."

Residents told the CQC inspector they 'felt safe' but noted staff could sometimes be 'snappy' and 'a bit harsh'.

The report added: "A culture that permitted bullying and harassment had developed in the service.

"Staff comments about the culture of the service included 'it was awful here before, glad they've [staff who no longer work at the service] gone, it is so much nicer now'; 'the culture is changing. Staff and residents are much happier' and 'there's not that feeling now of being told off and shouted at'. 

The report also noted a policy which banned residents from having help to use the toilet during meal times, although this rule had apparently been lifted after complaints.