Quality of care homes

March 6, 2019

The quality of care homes has worsened in the last year in more than a third of local authorities (37%), according to a report by Independent Age.

The older people’s charity analysed a snapshot of the CQC’s inspection data in January 2018 and January 2019, and found that more than a third of local authorities saw a drop in performance between the two dates. This is a stark increase on the 22% of local authorities that saw the quality of care homes worsen between 2017 and 2018.

The report also found that, in Manchester, 44% of care homes were rated Inadequate or Requires Improvement, while in 16 local authority areas, between 30%-40% of care homes were rated Inadequate or Requires Improvement. Issues highlighted in poorly rated care homes have included residents not receiving medicine as prescribed, and their nutrition and hydration not being monitored.

Independent Age says that it thinks lessons can be learned from the education sector’s approach to making improvements. Ofsted’s approaches to tackling failing schools have included a comprehensive improvement plan, such as management changes, arranging for expert help from other schools and regular re-inspections. These tactics are not consistently employed across the care home sector, but could be used to help tackle poor quality of care homes.

Independent Age is also calling for urgent action to end the poor and inadequate quality of care and for Government to finalise a sustainable long-term funding settlement for social care now.

George McNamara, Director of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, commented, 'These findings are truly alarming, and show thousands of vulnerable older people live in homes that are failing to deliver even the bare minimum.

'Years of dithering by the Government, and the failure to reform the social care system, is a main cause of increased pressures on the care home market and more areas with poor performers. Unless the forthcoming Green Paper is bold and ambitious, it will do little to address the crisis in care.

'Essentially, the Government continues to stand by and do nothing to address the quality of care suffered by older people, many of whom live with conditions such as dementia, and who are being robbed of their ability to enjoy life as much as possible.

'As well as being dangerous, poor care is miserable, involving things like being woken up in the night to be dressed or taken to the toilet because of staff shortages. Care homes are where many of us will live out our final months. No life should end in misery.'

Glen Garrod, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said, 'This report is an important contribution to our national debate around how we fund, organise and provide the best care possible. The fact that a postcode lottery of access and quality now exists, with many areas at or beyond a tipping point owing to care funding shortfalls, is both a highly personal and a national tragedy.

'Councils and their social care staff are doing all they can to provide the best possible service and we should not forget that the majority of care homes are rated Good...despite overstretched resources and tightening budgets.

'Our population is changing, and demand is growing. However, with no long-term funding plan in place, the sombre truth is that people will face reduced choice and delays when it comes to deciding what care will work best for them. Therefore the Government needs to publish its green paper, which must contain a long-term funding solution in order to cope with our growing national care crisis, as a matter of urgency.'

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