Adult care providers will be stuck with outdated ratings until at least May next year, following a decision by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to retain old information on its website.
The CQC stopped awarding star ratings at the end of June this year while it undertook consultation on the future of the ratings system for providers.
Today it announced it aims to start implementing a new system of quality ratings in May 2011 but will keep existing ratings for providers, which were awarded up to three years ago, on its website. In some cases, ratings will be downgraded if problems are identified following urgent inspections, but none will be uprated during the interim period.
Provider leaders warned the plan would penalise improving care services.
Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association (ECCA), said: "The people who have been working to improve services won't get any recognition."
Des Kelly, executive director of the National Care Forum (NCF), said some councils had linked the amount paid for services to quality ratings and this would mean some providers would not be able to get returns on investment in improving services.
Colin Angel, head of policy and communication at the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), said: "Local authorities have started to use quality rating to determine who gets the option to submit a tender for a service so that puts provider who have a bad rating but have improved services at a disadvantage."
The CQC will remove the ability for people to search for providers by quality rating for 1 October, when the CQC's new registration system for services comes in, to encourage people to use registration information to judge providers instead.
However, there were also warnings from Angel that providers had faced increased administrative burdens from councils introducing their own quality assurance systems to fill the gap left by the absence of stars.
Green said: "The CQC's inability to have a proper approach to [replacing star ratings] opened the flood gates for commissioners to develop their own system. It's an indictment of the lack of confidence commissioners have in the CQC." He said there was no need for a gap between one CQC ratings system and the next and that this could have been avoided by better planning.
A CQC spokesperson said: "We're aware of concerns over the timing of the new system but we're keen to make sure that it is robust and addresses the misgivings that people in the sector had about star ratings. In order to get the system right, we need to carry out a proper consultation.
"We have been closely consulting and involving the provider associations and other major stakeholders about the development of a new system, and we will continue to do so."
The timescale for the roll-out of the new ratings system will not be known until the workings of the system have been decided.
Source Community Care