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Friday, 04 November 2016

Too many care homes 'simply not coming up to scratch', former Care Minister

Written by The Press Association

There are "still dark corners" among Britain's care homes that need to be investigated to restore public confidence, a former health minister has warned.

Alistair Burt joined Tory backbencher Peter Heaton-Jones (North Devon) in demanding urgent action to address standards in Britain's care homes, amid claims too many are "simply not coming up to scratch".

Among their concerns were care homes banning families who complained about their relative's treatment - a practice dubbed "completely unacceptable" by Health Minister Nicola Blackwood.

Speaking in an adjournment debate on the issue in the Commons, Mr Burt (pictured) said: "For the great work that's done in care homes, there are still dark corners, and it's those corners that a light must be shone on.

"In order to protect families, it's essential that the sort of things that have been brought out, both by my honourable friend's campaign and what we've seen in the media the past couple of days, have got to come to an end to give the public confidence."

Mr Heaton-Jones, who led the debate, told MPs there were a growing number of cases where relatives were being banned from care homes for complaining about care.

He added: "In some cases, it has been known to lead even to the eviction of the elderly person from the home.

"Private care homes are defined in law as ultimate landlords. Quite simply, they can decide who goes on the premises, or not.

"A private care home also has the power to prevent health professionals from visiting the home. Just think about that for a moment."

MPs heard that on Wednesday, ahead of this debate, the CQC published new guidance saying care homes must keep records of such incidents.

Mr Heaton-Jones also raised concern about the proportion of care homes rated as either inadequate or requiring improvement, which accounted for around 200 of the 450 most recently inspected establishments.

He also said the CQC was more than a year behind schedule with a major inspection programme, while the complaints procedure for care homes was a "bewildering labyrinth" of different organisations.

He added: "We have a growing number of cases where care homes are simply not coming up to scratch."

In reply, Ms Blackwood said a new, tougher inspection regime had been brought in and was leading to improvements in standards.

She added that the CQC had been ambitious in its original timetable for inspections, but was now on course to complete this work by March.

As for complaints, Ms Blackwood said there was a statutory requirement for care home providers to operate a complaints system, which was enforced by the CQC.

She added: "We do know that this system is not working perfectly.

"Despite the progress we're making we still hear too many stories that highlight people's real concerns about the quality and safety in social care, and we are determined to do better.

"We also hear that those receiving care or their families can be reluctant to make a complaint for fear of consequences, especially if it's about the care home where they're living.

"Indeed, only this week there was a story on the Victoria Derbyshire Show about care homes banning relatives who make a complaint about the quality of care.

"We find this completely unacceptable. It is right that people and their families should feel able to raise concerns without fear of reprisals."

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