Tuesday 19 March 2019
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Care homes getting worse in one in three local councils urgent action needed to end inadequate standards of care, says older peoples charity

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

With over 2.6 million over-65s living in areas where an increasing number of care homes are rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) many older people and their families have no choice but to choose a poorly-performing care home. 

The older people’s charity analysed a snapshot of the CQC’s inspection data in January 2018 and January 2019, and found:

  • More than a third of local authorities saw a drop in performance between the two dates. This is an extremely concerning trend, and a stark increase on the 22% of local authorities where care home quality worsened between 2017 and 2018
  • In Manchester local authority, 44% of care homes were rated ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’
  • There were 16 local authority areas where between 30%-40% of care homes attracted this rating. For a care home to receive a ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’ rating, the service must be failing to deliver the minimum quality of care that is expected. Issues highlighted in poorly rated care homes have included residents not receiving medicine as they were prescribed, and their nutrition and hydration not being monitored.

Today’s report compares the immediate action taken by Ofsted to address failing schools to the general acceptance of poorly-performing care homes. The charity believes 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 as well as regular re-inspections. These tactics are not consistently employed across the care home sector, but could be used to help tackle poor performance.

Independent Age is also calling for urgent action to end the poor and inadequate quality of care. Residents and their families fund care homes, as well as taxpayers, but increasingly are not getting value for money.  The charity is also calling on the government to finalise a sustainable long term funding settlement for social care now. Only with a substantial investment which puts social care on a sustainable footing, can the Government truly resource the sector so that it can tackle unacceptable variations in quality.

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.”