Compliance burden grows for care homes as Care Act enters law
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A record number of care home inspections were carried out by the Care Quality Commission in the past year as it ramped up its enforcement activity ahead of a raft of new powers given to it in the Care Act.
According to research by business analysts Thomson Reuters, CQC care home inspections have more than quadrupled over the last three years, from just 5,178 in 2010/11 to 21,12 in 2013/14. This follows intense political and public pressure in the wake of high-profile care home scandals such as that involving the Winterbourne View care home in 2011.
“The CQC is now a completely different animal – one with a lot more teeth,” said Tim Spencer-Lane, a lawyer and author of the Care Act Manual, to be published on August 31 2014 by Thomson Reuters.
“Care homes need to be prepared to deal with an organisation that now has the power to prosecute them without notice. That means that providers have to be sure that they are meeting their legal responsibilities or face action under the new Act, – this is particularly important with an average of almost 60 unannounced inspections a day taking place over the past year.
“The CQC has been criticised in the past by official reports and in the press for its handling of the Winterbourne View and Ash Court scandals, and is under a lot of pressure to root out any failings in the sector.
“It will be very keen to ensure that it does not miss, or fail to act, on any problems that it identifies through its inspection regime. With the weapons now at its disposal, the CQC no longer has any excuses for poor performance in addressing abuse.”
With CQC having been given the power to monitor the finances of large care home providers, and inform local authorities if they are in financial difficulty, Thomson Reuters says concerns have been raised in Parliament over the CQC’s ability to take on this new role, as the organisation has no experience of financial monitoring of this type.
“In order to handle its new role, the CQC will have to recruit a team of professionals with skills and experience in this type of work, or outsource the work to specialists,” said Mr Spencer-Lane.
“That means the future level of government funding for the organisation is vital – without the money to build its financial monitoring capabilities, there is a risk that these reforms might not work.”