Which Care? What Care?

Lakeview Care Home. One of two modern care hom...

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Another day, another story of sub-standard care in residential homes in the UK. Today, the Guardian publish a story which relates to a Which? investigation

It explains some of the way the survey was conducted

In the most extreme case, a member of staff was witnessed dragging a resident towards the toilet by one arm, while another was repeatedly pushed back down into their chair by the head and shoulders when trying to stand up. Which? reported this to the health and social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which suspended admissions to the home immediately.

Anyone spot the problem with this? Yes, that’s right, the CQC waits for incidents like this to be reported to them and then subsequently take action. The CQC or any regulation or inspection authority should be the ones uncovering poor practice rather than being solely reacting to complaints that are made to them.

The Guardian goes on to say

The care homes were selected at random by Which? – one had previously been rated as poor by the CQC, two were deemed satisfactory, and one had been rated good – and the actors’ resulting diaries were analysed by a panel including an expert in inspection, an expert in activity and daily living, and a dietician.

Again shows a problem that has occurred since the scrapping of the ‘star’ system. Homes are still advertising the ‘stars’ and claiming to be ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ when it is outdated system demonstrating outdated inspection reports but still it is the first thing that people looking for residential care for family members.

It is very telling that a Consumer Organisation found the evidence rather than the official regulatory body.

But back to these homes and we’ll see the real fallacy in the ‘ratings’ and the inspections because despite the so-called ‘good’ inspections,

n three homes, residents sometimes had to wait 16 or 17 hours between dinner and breakfast without food, and in one home lunch was served just 1.5 hours after breakfast at 10am. For dinner one researcher was served a small sandwich and a chocolate-covered ice cream, despite them previously stating they didn’t eat chocolate.

There was a worrying lack of activity in all four homes. In one, residents constantly said they were bored, and in another not one of the advertised daily activities (including exercise, a quiz and a singing session) took place.

Does any of that sound ‘adequate’? Let alone ‘good’?

How is this allowed? Because the reduction of age and disability to irrelevance and unimportance in our society. Because care homes illicit a sense of guilt that we barely want to look behind what actually happens behind those closed doors.

This Which? investigation took four homes at random.

The CQC chair, Jo Williams is quoted as responding

The evidence Which? shared with us describes care that falls below what people using social care services have a right to expect – in one case so seriously that we acted immediately to ensure admissions to the home were suspended, and are now considering the best action for residents currently living there.

So this random sample of four included one home where the treatment and findings were so bad that it warranted an immediate suspension of admissions.

She goes on

“CQC listens to the views and experience of people who use services and look at what data tells us in order to identify possible risks, then reviews and inspects services. Seeing for ourselves what is going on in care homes is a key part of our regulatory regime – and almost all of our visits are unannounced. Where necessary, we require improvements against clear timescales or take enforcement action, following up to ensure these improvements have been delivered.”

Almost all of their visits are unannounced and they are ‘regular’ but tellingly, they are NOT frequent. Why is she not proud of the frequency?  The views and experiences of people who use services are important but how often will people feel safe in complaining.

Lest we forget, the Chief Executive of the CQC is a Cynthia Bower, who was Chief Executive of the  West Midlands Strategic Health Authority which was responsible for overseeing the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust where over 400 patients were found to have died due to neglect and poor care. How was she seen as able to take up the role of Chief Executive of the CQC? Not exactly a glowing track record on the regulation front.

Yesterday, Bower was facing the inquiry into the appalling levels of care in Stafford Hospital.

The Independent explains that

She told the inquiry, chaired by Robert Francis QC, that it had been “distressing to learn of the failings of care at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital and I offer my utmost and unreserved sympathy to patients and their carers and families. “I am deeply sorry for what happened and for the fact we had oversight of the NHS in the region at that time and we didn’t pick up failings in care.”

In addition to complaints, there were other alarm signals, such as reports of poor care from the Health Care Commission, the CQC’s predecessor, and of serious untoward incidents. But she said these were not enough to reveal what was going on.

“I wasn’t conscious at the time there was intelligence that we could have put together that would have said there were major failings of care,” she told the inquiry.

“I accept there were some issues we lost track of that would have generated more concern, but I don’t accept there were serious failings to put the pieces together.”

Ms Bower said the SHA did not have the capacity to have a detailed oversight of all of the region’s health services. She said the last NHS reorganisation in 2006 had caused a big upheaval and staff cuts of 60 per cent.

The first thing that springs to mind is ‘didn’t she learn anything about her role in the Stafford tragedy about the importance of GOOD regulation in the care system?’ The second thing is amazement that she should have been appointed to the CQC position anyway after such a horrific track record.

The government’s solution to this? To increase self-regulation and to out-source the so-called ‘excellence’ ratings for those care home providers that can pay.

The answer? Well, it would be more expensive but it would be more spot checking of the things that actually matter to the quality of life of users and residents in these services. How about a radical proposal that every care home is subject to the ‘excellence’ ratings whether they pay or not?

In some ways, nothing saddens my heart more than pounding on and on about poor quality care homes and poor quality inspection regimes – especially as I know that there are many very good care providers out there but unfortunately with a system of inspection which is so broken, those that are good are not recognised and those that are not good are not castigated and closed as quickly as they should be.

How have we ended up with a system that offers so little protection to some of those in our society who are in the most need of advocacy and support? By not caring enough about these stories.

Perhaps  more advocacy is a solution but it costs. Everything that is a potential solution costs. And that’s the problem.

But this is not something that can be swept under the carpet. These stories will return and I hope they do return to haunt those who are responsible for the destruction of the regulation system.

Because until they develop a conscience and a backbone, they will not go away. It’s just a matter of how many stories can remain hidden. And for how long.

8 thoughts on “Which Care? What Care?

  1. Pingback: Which Care? What Care? - Fighting Monsters - Member blogs - Social Work Blog - Carespace from Community Care

  2. “It costs” thats the reason, the main reason this happens. Human beings will always make mistakes but a rigorous inspection system should be practically watertight, but will cost!
    People in care homes are not important because they dont do the thing this government thinks we were all put on the earth to do, consume consume consume.
    Went to a conference yesterday about the economic effects of the governments policies on women, the main message was “we need to get angry” some of us already are, but we need te rest to join us. How much more will it take??

  3. It is strangely uplifting to realise that ‘the media’ and now consumer champion Which? are showing an increasing interest in the sub-standard residential care that is made available to vulnerable older people; at the same time, I find it depressing to read such disturbing reports almost daily now – as you said, another day another story emerges. The CQC sometimes react if something spine-chilling has been brought to their attention. But shouldn’t the CQC be pro-active, rather than reactive?

    The past investigation procedures were a joke, with reports all being whitewashed before appearing 3 or 4 months after the inspection visit. Now care providers are to self-regulate? The ‘Big Society’ will remove all accountability – not that there ever was much accountability in the residential care sector. Care providers are a law unto themselves at present, all hiding behind ‘confidentiality’. I fear that they are supported in that, by local authorities and by the CQC.

    The CQC may indeed create ‘requirements’ with timescales attached, but when those timescales are breached, the CQC merely changes those statutory requirements into ‘recommendations’ – and another 6 months passes, during which the so-called care provider scrapes around with much head-scratching, trying to work out what they are supposed to do in the first place: provide care.

    The only way change will come is to name and shame each and every care provider that fails so miserably. They are the ones who should suffer – not the people living in their rotten residential care homes.

  4. Hello CB

    Thankyou for this piece of writing which is focussed, informed and passionate. It really cheered me up to be reminded that there are social workers out there who care about what I care about and share my ambition to drag services for the infirm and elderly out of mediocrity and towards something like decency. This was particularly important today because I’ve spent the week with senior managers playing that perennial favourite party fame ‘heads in the sand’ about problems we’re experiencing with another regulatory issue.

    I’d knew that Mid Staffs’ Chief Executive had smoothly slipped upward to greater things but I hadn’t realised it was the CQC. To coin a phrase from a news journal I generally don’t read ‘You couldn’t make it up!’

    Right then, where do we start?

  5. Thanks, Guilsfield. It’s good to know others think the same way I do although I don’t really doubt it.

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