By Leon A Smith
December 15, 2011
I was interested to see this week that the government have come up with a new idea regarding care homes – the idea is to have a website very similar to TripAdviser so that people can leave their own personal experiences on the website. What a wonderful idea – practical, creative and highly professional (not!). Perhaps what the government want to detract from is the fact that the current regulatory system is plagued with deficiencies and problems primarily due to the lack of resources. Government want to have a strong national regulator and the care home sector share that view. Nothing is more important to us than to have a well resourced, nationally recognised, efficient and effective regulator. That is not, however, what we have at the moment. What we have is an under resourced organisation which consequently suffers from high staff turnover, problems with morale and has been the butt of extensive criticism in the media due to a number of high profile issues that have arisen within their sphere of responsibility. Would it not be simpler to give the regulator the money that they need in order to do the job effectively? Gimmicks such as I describe above are pointless and a detraction from the main issue.
Running care homes, hospitals, dental surgeries, domiciliary services is a serious business – a business which needs high quality regulation/licensing. Nothing can be left to chance. And yet the money is not available to make this happen effectively. Certainly there is a need for a lay person to be able to make an informed choice as to which home may be suitable to them and/or for a relative. League tables are pointless but some form of indicator is essential. Historically there has been a star rating system – not an ideal system as it was only 0, 1, 2, or 3 stars. It was a system nevertheless that had some meaning. Potential users therefore of care homes were able to go onto a website and look at inspection reports including recommendations, requirements etc and also look at the “star rating”.
The Care Quality Commission however decided that this system needed changing. This resulted in a potential new system which was more complicated and for which some homes were going to be charged for the privilege of receiving the highest possible classification! This was an extremely unpopular concept within the care sector but eventually on the advice of the government they have now quietly dropped this idea. We are therefore currently in a vacuum where we have no effective star rating system, neither do we have anything else. What better example could there be of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”.
The star rating system was not ideal but it was okay. Now consultation will have to start all over again, wasting valuable resources which I have previously indicated are already at a premium . Regulation is good . I am not knocking it. We need it in many aspects of our lives. If we are expecting the Care Quality Commission to do a serious job, we must give them the ability and the tools to do the job properly. At the present time, I don’t believe that we are.