The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) today launched a review of how well the care and nursing home market works, including an investigation of whether people are treated fairly.
The study, which follows a report by the Citizens Advice Bureau yesterday (see Citizens Advice calls for greater protection in care homes) will assess the experience of choosing a care home, whether the current regulation and complaints system gives residents adequate protection and examine how well care homes are complying with their obligations under consumer law.
Andrea Coscelli, CMA acting chief executive, said: “Choosing a care home can be emotional and costly. It’s therefore essential that elderly people and their families have all the information they need to make the best possible choice, and then feel secure in the knowledge they will be fairly treated throughout their time there.
“We are undertaking a thorough review of the sector to make sure it works in the best interests of those who rely on it. We want to hear from care home providers about the services they offer and any challenges they face, as well as residents, families and charities who have experienced what it’s like to choose and live in a care home. Given the concerns we have heard about possible breaches of consumer law, we particularly want to hear from people who think they might have encountered unfair terms or practices.”
The CMA said it wanted to hear from care home residents and their relatives who have encountered unexplained or ‘hidden’ charges, as well as unexpected fee increases, confusing requests for ‘top-up’ payments or occasions when they feel their complaints have not been handled fairly.
A recent BBC investigation found incidents of relatives being banned from homes for making complaints (see Care homes under fire over ‘relative ban’).
The CMA study will also look at the effectiveness of competition between care homes in driving up quality and value for money for residents and taxpayers and how local authorities and other public bodies purchase and assign care home places and how they encourage and shape local supply.
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, told Care Home Professional: “I hope the CMA will look into the poor quality of commissioning and the way in which local authorities are monopsony commissioners and are forcing providers into unsustainable contracts. There is a crisis in social care and unless it is resolved there will not be enough services and consumers will not have any choice. When we reach that point, the details of contacts will be irrelevant because there will be very few services to contract with.”
The deadline for feedback is January 16 2017. The CMA has published details of the scope of the investigation as well as provided details on how people can report how they feel they have been treated unfairly – see here.