NHS care home review site smacks of Ministry of Information over-reach

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The dead hand of central government control has been extended to the collation and dissemination of information and opinions about care homes.

In a launch branded as Tripadvisor for care homes, the NHS has been given the freedom to create a website that publishes details of all care homes (with and without nursing), plus assisted living accommodation.

Data is usefully drawn from CQC reports, including the number of available beds, whether a registered manager is in place, and a home’s latest inspection report.

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It also allows individuals to rate each care home, and the star ratings are displayed prominently next to each home’s listing.

This form of transparency and accountability might be welcome were it not for the fact that the public sector is typically so poor at delivering it.

The most important information – the CQC inspection reports – are already publicly available. The CQC is part-funded by government, but is heading towards being entirely paid for by the service providers it inspects. I expect its service to improve as service providers such as care homes demand value for money for the increasing fees they pay.

Other details on the NHS Choices site for care homes are provided by the homes and operators themselves. This includes latest news, pictures and information about services – the sort of promotion that will appear on their own websites.

Jumbling up this official and promotional information is unhelpful. It gives a veneer of authenticity to care homes advertising themselves, which in turn diminishes the value of the important CQC information.

Privately run services like Carehomes.co.uk set out to do the same thing, but are actually much more transparent about what information comes from independent sources like the public and the CQC, and what is provided or paid for by care homes promoting themselves.

If I were choosing a care home, I would trust CQC inspection reports, treat customer reviews with the same caution I treat hotel reviews from Tripadvisor, and discount claims made in care home promotions.

The NHS Choices website treats all information sources as equally useful, which for me makes it a waste of time and tax payers’ money.

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