‘This has to stop’ says abuse charity after CQC moves residents out of care home at night
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In the wake of the urgent closures by the Care Quality Commission of the Merok Park nursing home in Surrey last December and the more recent closure of the Old Village School Hall nursing home in Bedfordshire, the charity Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) has called for a change in the law to protect residents affected by urgent closures.
AEA says that, in the case of Merok Park, the transfer arrangement collapsed into confusion and chaos, with 26 residents moved in winter, at night and in the cold. In the case of the Old Village School Hall some 50 residents were moved, many after 6.30pm and some after 10pm, with some relatives describing the process as having caused huge distress to old, vulnerable people.
AEA has written to care minister Alistair Burt, calling for a change in the legal status of care homes that are subject to urgent cancellation, enabling them to be temporarily or permanently taken over by new management – whether a local authority, a CCG, or another commissioned provider.
AEA says the issue is not primarily about the actions of the regulator, or other agencies that have been involved in these closures, but about the failure of legislation to effectively differentiate between the nature of social care businesses from that of other commercial enterprises.
“Market forces and private ownership in this context are working to the detriment of vulnerable older people, whether the services are delivered by private or voluntary agencies,” said AEA chief executive Gary FitzGerald.
“The Secretary of State has said that the moving and discharge of patients from hospital settings should not take place at night, and this should be equally true in relation to care home residents.
“While care homes may be businesses, their trade is with very frail, often highly dependent people who frequently have multiple needs and vulnerabilities. Ageing already weakens the immune system of older people. Traumatic events weaken it further. And there is nothing more traumatic than a sudden, unplanned enforced move of home.”
In the interim of changing the law, the charity has called for the Department of Health to issue statutory guidance to ensure that future applications to court by the CQC for the ‘urgent’ cancellation of registration are planned so that the timing of any court order, and the arrangements between agencies for resident transfers to other accommodation, can properly be co-ordinated so as to avoid action being taken in the evenings or at night.
“If a care home closes, residents are moved because the property is in private ownership,” said Mr FitzGerald.
“But we don’t do that if a train operator goes bust. No one suggests taking up the track, or throwing commuters out of the rolling stock. How can we be putting our old people through a process that is so damaging to them? This has to stop.”