Thirty-four care homes and eight agencies providing care in people’s homes have closed in the past 12 months following regulatory action and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) says the system is about to get tougher.
The regulator today (Wednesday) said it had needed to take strong measures in order to protect people’s safety. Alternative care homes were found for about 700 elderly people and younger adults with a disability.
In six cases, CQC had issued a legal notice to close the service. In the remaining cases, owners closed or sold the service after CQC took enforcement action.
The regulator said the closures represent a very small fraction of the 24,000 services in England. It stressed that the vast majority provide good care and respond positively when areas for improvement are identified.
But CQC said that in a small number of cases, risks to people’s health and welfare were too great and the only option was closure. The regulator’s concerns included:
* verbal and psychological abuse of residents
* medicines not being managed safely, leaving people at risk of not receiving vital medication
* lack of medical and nursing care
* staff not legally able to work in the country
* poor sanitary conditions
* lack of staff training
In the same period, another 51 services voluntarily closed after CQC rated them “poor”. This includes 39 care homes with about 900 residents, 11 agencies providing care in people’s homes and one agency providing nursing care. CQC had demanded these services improve, but had not taken formal enforcement action.
Care homes must be registered with CQC and the regulator has a range of powers including prosecution and closure.
Under the Health and Social Care Act 2008, CQC will launch a new registration system this Friday (1 October). It introduces new essential standards of quality and safety that everyone should be able to expect when they receive care.
CQC said this system would be even tougher on poor care, with a wider range of enforcement powers that includes on-the-spot fines, warning notices and suspension of registration, as well as prosecution and closure.
Cynthia Bower, CQC’s chief executive, said: “Standards across the sector are improving year-on-year, so people are getting better care than in the past. In order to keep this trend going, we need to address the worst services that just cannot or will not improve to an acceptable level. This is where we’ve been focusing our attention over the past year as we get the sector ready for a new registration system that will be even tougher when care is not up to scratch.
“Closing a care home is not a decision taken lightly. These are places where people live. We have to weigh up the potential impact on residents. In some cases, moving frail and elderly people may actually cause more harm than good.
“Our first step is to try to get the home to improve. This is always preferable to closure because it means residents get better care without having to go through the trauma of moving.
“But in some cases, the necessary improvements fail to materialise. It becomes clear that the only way to properly protect residents is to close the home and move them to others where care is of a better standard.”
CQC works closely with other agencies responsible for monitoring care, particularly local councils, which fund many people’s care and have a responsibility to investigate safeguarding concerns.
Ms Bower added: “We did not tolerate poor care under the old registration system and we certainly will not tolerate it under the new system. Services where problems have been identified can expect frequent inspections and we will use our powers where it is necessary to protect people, even if it means shutting services down.”
The new registration system will bring the NHS, private healthcare and adult social care providers under the same inspection regime and standards for the first time. NHS trusts registered in April this year and private healthcare and adult social care will join from Friday. From April next year, CQC will register dentists and private ambulances and from 2012, GPs will need to register.