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Jeremy Hunt unveils new measures to tackle failing care homes

New measures unveiled as chief inspector of social care says cases of ‘truly awful care’ are brought to light every week
  • Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt said he would introduce a special measures regime for care homes similar to that for hospitals. Photograph: Barcroft Media

There are far too many failing care homes that people would not be happy to send their relatives to, the health secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt said he would not want his mother, father or grandparents to live in a number of facilities in England as he announced new measures to tackle failing care homes.

The country’s chief inspector of social care said that examples of “truly awful care” were brought to light every week.

Andrea Sutcliffe condemned the abuse and neglect that still occurred and pledged to crack down on the unacceptable care provided by some organisations.

Her comments came as Hunt announced that poorly performing care homes would be put into a similar failure regime as inadequate hospitals.

Hunt said that most of the hospital trusts put into special measures a year ago had shown significant improvements, and that the initiative would be rolled out to include care homes and home care services.

If these services fail to make improvements they could then face being shut down, he said.

“We must never again have a situation where the system knows there is a problem but the public don’t,” he said.

“There are many excellent home care providers and many outstanding care homes in this country, but there are still too many where I would personally not want my mother or my father or grandparents to live in.

“The public have been really shocked by stories of abuse and neglect, and we need to give the public confidence that when these things happen they will be spotted quickly and acted on.”

Drawing on his own personal experience with care facilities, Hunt said: “When I have had relatives go into care homes the experience has been mixed. I have had ones that I have thought were OK and I have had ones that I wasn’t so happy with.

“The judgment I made as a member of the public was usually about the feeling of compassionate care that you got from the staff who worked in the institution.

“What you are not able to do as a member of the public is look with expert eyes that Andrea’s team are able to do. Where this will really help is that it will give expert backbone to those judgements.”

Sutcliffe, the chief inspector of social care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said: “Week in and week out people tell me and my team, or inspectors discover, truly awful care which should not be happening.

“Sometimes it’s abuse, older people treated roughly or worrying bruises that have no explanation.

“Sometimes it is neglect, people living with dementia not supported to eat and drink so they end up with malnutrition or life-threatening dehydration.

“Sometimes it’s a shocking lack of respect for people’s dignity, dressed in someone else’s clothes that don’t fit, men not having a regular shave because staff are too busy, no one taking the time to find out what makes you happy or just to talk to you.

“It can all add up to a thoroughly miserable or frightening experience for people often in the most vulnerable of circumstances.

“It doesn’t just affect the individual, it affects the whole family. The worst part of the letters I read sometimes is the distress and guilt that the family feel. It can be truly heartbreaking.

“Those examples of failing care reinforce my determination to make sure that we call time on poor care.”

Putting hospital trusts in special measures was part of the government’s response to the Stafford hospital scandal.

Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust was at the centre of a major public inquiry after it was found that poor care could have led to the deaths of hundreds of patients.

The inquiry highlighted the “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” at the trust and investigations revealed that many patients were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases and given the wrong medication.

A year ago, following a review into 14 other hospital trusts with higher than expected death rates, 11 trusts were put into special measures for a catalogue of failings and fundamental breaches of care.

The CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, has said that since the trusts were put into the failure regime, most have shown major improvements in leadership, patient safety, compassionate care and staff engagement.

Following inspections, five of the trusts have been, or are expected to be, taken out of special measures, he said. Four have made improvements, but will be kept in the regime for an extended period and decisions on the final two will be announced later in the week.

Hunt said that a similar system would be rolled out into care homes and home care services. From October services across England will face a tough new inspection regime, he said.

Care homes and home care services will receive Ofsted-style ratings and those rated inadequate face being put into special measures. If they fail to make improvements they could be shut down, he said.

Earlier this week it was also reported that a similar regime would be rolled out for GP services.

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