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By Debbie le Quesne

Failings report: The other news behind the headlines

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The BBC has picked up on a media release from the Care Quality Commission, reporting that nine sites have been rated inadequate across the north of England.

Some 41 visits in that region had taken place at the time of the newsbreak (April7).

It all makes depressing reading with incidents of faeces on a sofa and a window sill, walls and furniture stained, damp dining chairs and sliding bolts found on the outside of doors. What!

You may think that this news (see www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-32204389 ) is CQC flexing its muscles to sends out a very clear message to those homes where standards are not so good.

Perhaps, that in part, is true – frankly, neither myself or the West Midlands Care Association which I head would ever condone substandard care – but the cases highlight for me another issue and probably a bigger one.

For too many years care providers delivering residential packages have been deprived by local authorities of realistic rates for beds.

Some councils have pegged fees, some have offered minor increments, a few in more affluent areas of the UK have dispensed better deals, while others have been challenged in the courts over chronically poor payments.

This financial deprivation has effectively forced the hand of many providers to keep their quality mark at a safe level, but not at the excellence that many would wish. Safe, indeed, not exemplary . . . it’s what’s being paid for, and has been paid for even in the years of plenty when LAs saw fit to spend budgets on other items they deemed more important tan caring.

With fiscal restraint continuing to look bleak even post-General Election, there appears to be no money left for the poor care provider who must continue to maintain safe care with no extra resource.

Of course, I’m not defending the failing homes, but I would like to think the Commission really did understand the root cause of many of the problems that its enthusiastic diligence will disclose.

I wonder too just how many homes will fall at the new CQC hurdles because of bad paperwork and poor audit trails. Ironic, isn’t it, that this Government body is fast uncovering the results of its own master’s policies.

Add to this the top-heavy procedures of implementing DoLS and safeguarding, we have a growing pool of homes where ratings are bound to plummet.

I’m not surprised with the emerging outcomes, especially when the standard required to achieve ‘good’ has significantly shifted upwards.

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Here’s a snapshot of the West Midlands picture:

Good  Requires        Inadequate

Improvement

Dudley Care Homes                         3               8                             2

Sandwell Care Homes                    12              10                           0

Wolverhampton Care Homes        4                   5                            1

Walsall Care Homes                        2                 3                            0

Birmingham Care Homes                35            17                             2

Worcester Care Homes                  13              5                              0

Totals                                              69            48                              5

lease note well: Worcestershire, with its better figures, pays better than the other Midlands authorities and there are also more privately funded service users in that region to subsidise those whose care is paid for by the local authority.

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