The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued guidance for care home providers on their consumer law responsibilities.
The advice is being published as part of the CMA’s ongoing consumer protection work into residential care homes and nursing homes for older people and follows its probe into the sector last year, which found the risk of some residents being unfairly treated (see BREAKING NEWS: CMA finds £1bn care funding shortfall).
CMA Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli said: “It’s vital that care homes treat residents and their families fairly, which is why we have issued advice to all homes across the UK to help them understand what they should and should not be doing under consumer law.”
The regulator will be conducting a review in 12 months’ time with partners, including Trading Standards, on how well providers are complying with consumer law and warned it may take further action where unfair and illegal practices are found.
The CMA’s guidance covers providing appropriate upfront information and complaints handling.
Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said: “It is a scandal some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being taken for a ride by a minority of unscrupulous care home providers. Everyone living in a care home should be treated fairly and with respect.
“I am determined to protect residents by stamping out unfair practices and secretive fees. This important new guidance will help care homes to understand and comply with their responsibilities under consumer law. Later this year we will set out plans to further improve consumer protections as part of the Adult Social Care Green Paper.”
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King welcomed the CMA’s guidance, adding: “From our vast experience of investigating complaints about adult social care, we know just how important it is that people are given information about how and where to complain, including how to escalate a complaint to us, before they make crucial decisions about their care.”
Hazel Phillips, Head of Royds Withy King’s dedicated Social Care team, warned care providers would need to review their practices and contracts “as a matter of urgency” following the guidance.
The Care Provider Alliance (CPA) said it was developing model contract clauses and support materials to help providers respond to the range of information the CMA is recommending providers give to residents and prospective residents.
It added it would seek to support care homes on providing a transparent fee increase formula that met the CMA guidance. The CPA said it was also exploring the use of Primary Authority to provide assurance and consistency of interpretation across all areas of the country.