A trade union claims a Channel 4 documentary exposing bad practices at a Chester care home backs up members' claims that Bupa facilities are run on ‘a shoe-string’.

Monday night’s Dispatches alleged rationing of incontinence pads and routine understaffing at Crawfords Walk in Lightfoot Street, Hoole – matters that Unison claims reflect ‘institutional problems’ across the healthcare group.

Bupa managers are ‘shocked and saddened’ by the behaviours highlighted at Crawfords Walk but insist it is ‘not a true reflection of the care’ provided in Bupa homes every day.

Crawfords Walk specialist dementia care home in Lightfoot Street, Hoole, which is the subject of C4's Dispatches programme.

They have strongly denied the programme's allegations of "institutional abuse" of residents and say there were isolated incidents of wrongdoing by certain individuals. They insist it is incorrect to suggest such practices are systemic across its homes in England with only 3% rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and more than two-thirds (67%) rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’.

In Scotland, which has a separate regulatory regime, less than 4% are judged ‘Weak’ and in Wales all Bupa homes are rated ‘Compliant’ by the Care Inspectorate and Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales which only uses one rating.

Commenting on the Dispatches investigation, Lizanne Devonport, Unison North West Regional Organiser, said: “It is shocking and upsetting to see the mistreatment of vulnerable people in Bupa care homes.

Crawfords Walk Care Home in Hoole Image from Google Streetview

“Where individual misconduct is alleged it needs to be investigated promptly, but the issues in these homes go much deeper and we owe it to the residents to confront the institutional problems at Bupa.

“Our members tell us that Bupa homes are run on a shoe-string budget, with rationing of basic resources like incontinence pads, routine understaffing, and buildings left in a very poor state of repair.

"Staff have been instructed not to raise issues with their union and they fear that they will be blamed and punished by managers if they speak up about their concerns. We raised these points with Bupa in February but have received no meaningful response.

“Bupa makes £700million in profit and promotes itself as a quality organisation, but our experience is that Bupa is amongst the worst residential care providers that we encounter.

Reporter Jackie Long from Channel 4's Dispatches.

“There is an urgent need for change. Bupa needs to ensure that staff have the time and resources they need to provide dignity in care for residents – Bupa should not be trying to provide care on the cheap.”

Unison says it is promoting the development of a management culture that encourages staff to raise any concerns about care quality as part of its ‘Dignity in Social Care’ campaign.

Joan Elliott, managing director, Bupa Care Services, said in response to the programme and the union comments: “I am shocked and saddened, these behaviours and practices are completely unacceptable. A dedicated Improvement Team is working with the home and we promptly suspended a number of individuals.

Crawfords Walk specialist dementia care home in Lightfoot Street, Hoole, which is the subject of C4's Dispatches programme.

“We do not accept a number of the allegations made and have records which back this up, but what was shown in the programme does not meet our standards of care. We are talking to all of our residents and their relatives about the improvements we’re making at Crawfords Walk and we are working with the Care Quality Commission, the local council and the NHS.

“We’re proud of our staff and this is not a true reflection of the care that our dedicated nurses and carers provide in our homes every day.”