Inspection flags up ‘Pay as You Eat’ scheme

An inspection by Northern Ireland’s health regulator at a supported living facility in Limavady found service users were being financially disadvantaged by an arrangement in place called “Pay As You Eat”, writes Sheena Jackson.

The establishment named is ‘Ballyclose House’, a Western Trust-run supported living facility for adults with mental health issues. The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) said during an announced inspection on February 3, 2015, the inspector discussed the arrangements for staff to avail of a meal when providing care and support to service users. The registered manager explained the agency operates a ‘Pay as You Eat’ scheme for the optional use of both service users and staff.

“The costs of the food consumed by agency staff were discussed during the inspection and there was evidence of service users being financially disadvantaged by the arrangements in place,” said the RQIA, noting the registered manager of the service had been raising problems with the ‘Pay As You Eat’ scheme since February, 2014, but no action was taken.

RQIA found representatives of the registered person acknowledged that agency staff had not been making adequate payments into the meals scheme and service users had been financially diasadvantaged as a result. The RQIA concluded the ‘Pay As You Eat’ scheme was not sufficiently developed to safeguard service users from financial disadvantage.

Actions required by the Trust include ensuring service users’ finances are administered in a maner that doesn’t result in any loss to the service user. The Trust must, by April 17, 2015, submit a proposal for making repayments to the relevant service users.

Aidan Hannah of Patients First said: “The disappointing aspect is it appears, by what the RQIA failure to comply notice states, the manager wasn’t listened to,” said Mr Hannah, who said the phrase ‘Pay As You Eat’ was awful.

A Western Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson said the Trust is “investigating the matter and cannot make any further comment at this time”.