New inspection regime stacks the odds against care homes
Inspections of care homes by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have more than trebled from 4,391 in 2010-11 to 14,264 in 2011-12, according to commercial law firm EMW.
The firm warns that, with the advent of Clinical Commissioning Groups replacing Primary Care Trusts in April, failing an inspection could see over cautious CCGs putting a brake on placements The huge rise in inspections follows the toughening of regulations in the wake of a slew of exposés about the mistreatment of care home patients by care workers in 2010 and 2011.
“The tough new regulatory regime poses a huge compliance challenge to the care home sector,” said Mr Soul.
“The new inspections are longer and completely unannounced. Hundreds more inspectors had been hired, while the standards to which care homes must conform had been overhauled.
“The new inspection regime sets very high standards for care homes, which should be expected, but the new inspections stack the odds against care homes. Inspection reports are now very black or white – care homes either pass or fail. The grey areas and caveats have been stripped out of the reports.”
Mr Soul said care homes now did not have the opportunity to respond to the findings of an inspection report before it was published and that, even if problems could be easily rectified, a care home’s reputation would be hit by a negative report, which would remain on the CQC website until the next inspection, even if the problems were solved immediately. “CQC inspection reports can have a huge, immediate impact on the reputation of a care home,” he said.
“They’re often the first thing a family will look at if they are looking for a potential home for a family member.”
Mr Soul said the new inspections were creating increased compliance costs for care homes and that, while care homes needed to be properly regulated, the problems at a small fraction of care homes were now impacting the whole sector.
“The care home sector has had a very tough time over the last five years, with even large firms struggling financially. The new regulations are an extra burden. Care homes will have to invest to ensure they meet the guidelines – and the risks of not meeting them are greater than ever before.” Mr Soul said the importance of inspection reports would increase following the abolition of the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in April and their commissioning role being taken over by Clinical Commissioning Groups. “Private care homes receive a large number of referrals from PCTs. The relationships between PCTs and care homes are well-established. PCTs know the trustworthy and well-run care homes, and the ones to avoid. “Clinical Commissioners won’t have the same level of understanding of the care homes in their region. They will rely very heavily on the inspection reports. Failing a report – of which there is now a much greater risk for care homes – could spell the end of any public sector referrals for private care homes.”