The Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) has accused the CQC of “retreating to the side-lines” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to the regulator’s CEO, Ian Trenholm, chair of the R&RA, Judy Downey, (pictured) said the CQC had “badly let down” older people needing care during the pandemic.
The campaign group said the CQC had continued to leave older people in care at risk by not taking a “proactive” approach to monitoring compliance with care home visiting guidance.
Judy also said the regulator had failed to take a leadership role in guaranteeing open, inclusive cultures in care settings.
The R&RA chair called for the resumption of routine inspections in all care services with a priority for those with serious breaches of the regulations, those without a manager, those with a high staff turnover and those not inspected for three or more years.
Additionally, the R&RA called on the CQC to insist care homes’ visiting policies should be publically available and assessed in inspections and reports.
The campaign group also urged the regulator to call for the re-establishment of face to face contact with health professionals, social workers and other professionals and to raise its voice for the sector’s needs, including adequate sick pay for care workers.
Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at CQC, said: “The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on many people and we know it has been particularly difficult for those who are living in care homes and their families and loved ones. We have taken decisive action throughout the pandemic to help keep people safe in care settings, including undertaking over 7,000 inspections, and making absolutely clear to providers that blanket approaches to visiting are unacceptable and may trigger an inspection. We have been clear throughout the pandemic that the individual must be at the centre of decisions around visiting.
“We continue to seek assurances from care home providers about how they are supporting visiting to happen and we are verifying this information when we go out and inspect. We have a mandatory question on each of our care home inspections which looks at how visiting is being supported to happen in a safe way and since 8 March we’ve undertaken 1,282 inspections. We have found that 95% were enabling visiting to happen, and action was taken with those 5% of providers where we had outstanding concerns.
“Concerns have been raised with us about 37 potential blanket bans and we have taken action in every case, including following up with providers, inspecting, raising safeguarding alerts where appropriate and following up with local authorities. We expect providers to follow government guidance on visiting where people are entitled to have designated visitors, and where we are made aware that this is not happening we will follow up with the provider and inspect if we consider that there is risk.
“Where we have any evidence that this is not happening we will continue to take action and are grateful to all those who continue to share their concerns with us.”
On the fear of speaking out, Kate added: “Care homes are people’s homes and no-one should live in fear of being penalised for raising concerns. Sadly, we’re aware that this is not always the case. It is not acceptable for people to be treated unfairly if they raise concerns and I am clear that appropriate action will be taken if we find providers failing in their responsibilities.
“We already review how providers handle complaints when looking at how responsive and ‘well led’ a care home is, as well as checking with residents and relatives whether they know how to raise concerns and if they feel listened to. We have also launched our joint Because We All Care campaign with Health Watch England to support people in care and their loved ones by encouraging people to share feedback on individual experience.”
The CQC said it will be releasing a full response to the R&RA in the coming days.