Yesterday, it was announced that the government was going to set up a website, the details of which would be unveiled in the Spring White Paper on Adult Social Care which could bring a kind of ‘Trip Advisor’ model of rating and commenting to providers of care homes and nursing homes.
Sounds good so far. I certainly welcome more open and accessible information for those who are choosing care homes but there are some real and obvious differences that need to be highlighted between the choices that are available to those who are picking hotels in New York City and those who are choosing care homes for Granny in Wallsend.
On a positive note, Burstow claims that these plans came from user-led discussion groups which shows that he is listening but there are some important points that have to be taken into consideration, lest this is seen as a way of trying to provide regulation on-the-cheap because the actual regulatory body – the CQC – is unable to carry out its function.
Burstow proposes that alongside this website, the local ‘scrutiny’ teams would be able to visit care homes and report back on them – and these would involve family members of those who are residents.
As someone who has long felt that independent lay visitors could provide a further safeguard I welcome that development. I hope there are sufficient safeguards, perhaps through the use of independent advocates, for those who do not have family members or friends.
My concerns are that:-
I worry there may be an overburdening of responsibility where it is not sought, on family members to ‘inspect’ properties.
A majority of the people whom I am involved in placing and reviewing in residential and nursing care have no family and would not have the capacity to participate fully themselves in these ‘scrutiny’ organisations.
We had ratings previously. The old ‘star system’ that was scrapped by the government (I can’t remember if it was this govt or the last). Sure, they would be different people providing the ratings but I can’t see how it will be any different from the providers point of view. Maybe it will be better in that they will judge on more than desk based inspections and quality of paperwork but there is more to care than a headline figure.
Also, very importantly, the market for care is not as fluid as that for hotels. If you want your mother placed in a particular geographic area and within a certain cost, you may be pushed to find one provider. This is not going to be a case of picking and choosing the way one picks and chooses hotels. That’s not to say more information isn’t good, it is, but pretending this is anything similar to a ‘hotel and restaurant booking’ is facetious at best and deceptive at worst.
My worry is that this is an attempt to plug in the holes of the CQC by resorting to ‘Big Society’. This comes after Lansley demonstrated his lack of faith in the quality of the leadership in the CQC by ordering an investigation into the way it has been managed.
These announcements, this bright new way forward of accessing information about care and the concerns raised about the regulator can’t really be detached from each other.
I welcome more information and knowledge but I worry that this is a path towards the disappearance of professional expert regulation that is being followed ‘on the cheap’ and the intention is to replace rather than bolster scrutiny and regulation in what is a much more complex setting than hotels and restaurants.