Tuesday 11 December 2018
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Local authorities should make sure they are acting lawfully

Local authorities should make sure they are acting lawfully when they set the fees they will pay for publicly funded nursing home residents in the financial year starting on 1st April 2012.

This is a key message from the Registered Nursing Home Association at a series of roadshows around the country for care home owners, managers and senior care staff as they gather to debate the challenge of delivering high quality services during a period of massive cost-cutting by both central government and councils.

Three successful judicial reviews have already been mounted against Pembrokeshire, Leicestershire and Sefton councils. A fourth review is scheduled to examine Devon County Council’s procedures in April.

RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell said the three completed cases had shown that when councils decide how much they are willing to pay for frail, elderly residents to be looked after 24 hours a day, they have by law to take into account what it actually costs nursing homes to provide the care that is needed.

The RNHA has urged nursing homes throughout the country to be vigilant in looking for possible lapses by councils in complying with the required procedures for setting the fees they will pay over the next 12 months.

“Councils have to consult their local care providers about fee levels,” said Mr Ursell. “They also have to look closely at what it is actually costing nursing homes in their area to deliver the necessary quality of care, and at the likely impact of price rises and wage increases in the pipeline.”

He added: “Councils cannot just decide to pay what they feel like paying, and to claim that it is all they can afford. That is not lawful. So we shall be asking nursing homes to keep their eyes peeled and to let us know if they suspect that councils are trying to duck out of their responsibilities.

“Ultimately, the quality of care depends on the level of funding available, and since around two thirds of residents rely on council funding for their places, any attempt by councils to freeze or cut the amount they pay will have an automatic knock on effect on the care provided to vulnerable older people.”

The RNHA is also calling on the families of older people in nursing homes to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman if they think that the cutbacks in council spending risk harming the level of service provided to their loved ones in care.