Many of the themes in my blog seem to repeat themselves year after year. None more so that the subject of residential care, which I started writing about in 2010 shortly after I had retired from the ExtraCare Charitable Trust.
In October 2010 I wrote a blog entitled “Residential Care Dilemma” and thereafter I followed on with several other blogs on the same subject before focusing specifically on the collapse of the biggest organisation of residential care – Southern Cross. (You can see all these blogs by clicking on “Residential Care” in the TOPICS list.) Here are some prescient quotes from some of those posts which relate directly to the recent crisis in residential care which has been prominently in the media in the last few weeks:-
- “Now, many of the big residential care companies are on the verge of insolvency due to the combination of high gearing and artificially low fee income”;
- “If Care Quality Commission (CQC) wish to have a substantial, strategic and long-term impact on quality outcomes, it can’t be through increased regulation and more home closures”;
- “The CQC should champion good practice and facilitate learning and skills improvement throughout the residential and domiciliary care sector”;
- “If we do nothing, the tougher regulation road can only lead to crisis”.
There is no question that paragraphs 1, 2 and 4 have all come about as I predicted. Here are some facts to prove it. :-
- 1500 Care homes have closed in the last 5 years;
- many other homes are on the brink of bankruptcy and will struggle to pay the new living wage to their staff;
- care home providers are moving away from Social Service funded residents wherever they can. Resulting in more blocked beds in the NHS.
- meanwhile the number of older people needing care is rising as the population ages.
Unfortunately little has been done from about developing a more positive role of CQC referred to in paragraph 3. In its latest Annual Report CQC shows that in the last year it has rated one-third of the 17,000 residential and nursing homes as either “inadequate” or “in need of improvement”.
CQC needs to be given an expanded role which focuses on training for quality improvement throughout the residential care sector. It need not cost lots more money. At a time when most staff will already be receiving increases in pay, it is an ideal time to expect them to improve their caring skills. Without action it is the residents who pay with a reduced quality of service.
Regulation alone, used as a stick is never the answer, it needs to be accompanied by the helping hand of hope !