In November last year, the CQC endured unwelcome headlines because its inspectors were accused in The Times as “routinely staying in luxury rooms costing up to £240 per night”. It is fair to say, then, that they are not blinded by the fripperies of upmarket accommodation.
Far from it, according to Andrea Sutcliffe, chief inspector of adult social care for the regulator.
She told Care Home Professional this month that homes focusing too much on what looks good are too often ignoring the much more important question of what feels good to people living with dementia.
This month the CQC publishes its strategy for the next five years, which will describe how it will preside over ever-improving standards of care, and deliver a better inspection regime within a budget that has been cut by £32 million.
Care home operators may have little sympathy with the CQC’s mandate to save money, particularly as they will be footing the bill for the entire cost of the organisation within two years, but they cannot ignore the findings from hundreds of inspections.
Inspectors over the past two years have found that the new breed of large, luxury care home operators that profit mainly from affluent self-funders in the South of England – the companies investing millions in the very finest environments – are not necessarily earning better ratings from the regulator.
Quite the opposite. Ms Sutcliffe has said, and CQC statistics confirm, that smaller, homely properties are more likely to deliver the person-centred care that people with dementia need and deserve.
Posh properties might be attractive to people finding homes for relatives who are unable to make their own decisions. But, if the CQC keeps rating them as Requiring Improvement on their publicly accessible website, luxury operators might start to find that their homes are harder to fill.
The message from inspectors is that care comes first, and if that means shifting investment from designer light fittings to better training for carers, nurses and managers, then that is exactly what needs to be done.