REGULATION: Transparency key to informed care decisions, says CQC

Andrea Sutcliffe, CQC Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) says transparency is key to helping families make informed decisions about care for their loved ones.

Since my last column, I have been on BBC Breakfast to talk about how CQC’s inspection findings can help people become more #CareAware when making decisions about their choice of care home – either for themselves or a loved one.

Perhaps it wasn’t surprising to learn from our consumer study that the vast majority of people found this experience to be one of their most stressful decisions in life.  Interestingly, what the survey also revealed was that the regions where people had said they felt most stressed of all are the regions where we find the highest proportion of ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’ services.

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On the one hand, in care homes across the country our CQC inspection teams find many examples of dedicated managers and staff who are skilled, supported and trained to really make a positive difference in the lives of people, their families and carers, who rely and depend on these vital services. Yet on the other, we only have to look at the recent report from Independent Age using information from CQC’s inspections to see that isn’t the story everywhere and this variation undoubtedly impacts on people’s own decisions around care. So what can be done?

How confident people feel about choosing care really relies on them getting clear and trusted information consistently – both from CQC as the regulator and from professionals like you who own, run and work in care services.

In our survey findings, many people said the quality rating of a care home as ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ either  helped them feel more confident they were doing the right thing, or helped them to decide a particular care home wasn’t the right choice for them.

But it was people ‘seeing’ the care service that was the most important influence. Nothing beats taking a look around and having a chat with staff; residents and relatives.  But, as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report made clear, it is also important that people have access to information in advance on topics such as fees, additional costs and handling complaints. If you haven’t seen it already, the Government published its response to the CMA homes market study last month.

Those of us working in adult social care know what a positive impact great services and staff can have for people but sadly the public image of care homes has been tarnished by stories of abuse, a lack of money and shortages of staff. Although the majority of services are good, the knowledge that care can be poor is a real concern for people and families who want to make sure they, or their loved one, are being treated with kindness, dignity and respect.

It can be a worrying, emotional, and often, guilt-inducing decision that people and their families take when it comes to choosing a care home. But when providers get it right, by focussing on people’s individual needs, listening to their stories, understanding their experiences and finding out what matters to them; that makes all the difference.

As one of our #CareAware case studies, Sue Walklett, perfectly summarises: “It’s a weight off my mind knowing Mum is looked after in the way she deserves to be looked after.” Meeting the Mum Test – what greater accolade can there be?

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