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Quality of care is at the 'tipping point'

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Last week the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published its annual report commenting on the state of health care and adult social care in England. The report highlights the increasing pressures faced by social care services and suggests that, in light of an ageing population and continued funding constraints, the situation is not going to improve in the short term at least.

Care quality must improve

The report confirms that 25% of those NHS services, care homes, general practices and other services which were previously rated inadequate had not improved enough to receive a higher rating. Furthermore, statistics obtained from the CQC’s website on 14 October 2016 suggest in fact that in the last month 265 required improvement and 73 were inadequate.

What is going wrong?

It is well reported that hospitals are reaching capacity. The CQC’s report confirms that bed occupancy rates exceeded 91% in January to March 2016. Beds are being filled or blocked by elderly patients who cannot return to their own homes due to issues with funding / care package or cannot move into a care home as there simply aren’t enough places.

Over the last 12-18 months, bed numbers in care homes have decreased. The decrease has been due to homes closing following ‘inadequate’ CQC ratings but more importantly due to funding constraints. Profit margins for care home providers are reducing following the implementation of the national living wage and with the amount of fees which funders of care are able or willing to pay being limited.

With places within care homes decreasing and the population living longer this is a problem which is going to persist. Quite simply, the demand for beds is not increasing in line with needs.

Elders are entitled to high levels of care

The statistics confirm that some people across the country are clearly receiving poor care. Sarah Cunliffe, a lawyer who specialises in dealing with cases of care home neglect, observes that the statistics, whilst disappointing, do not come as a surprise:

‘I am regularly contacted by individuals whose loved ones have received poor care and who have been sadly neglected. People have a right to expect that when they or their loved ones move into a care home that they receive a high level of care. You entrust your children to their teachers at school and you should expect that same level of care when your loved ones move into a care home. There should be no distinction just because of someone’s age, or physical/mental ability.’

Neglect or elder abuse can take many forms. It can present as a failure to provide adequate fluids and food, not administering the correct medications, the development of pressure sores, or simply not assessing and providing the level of care that the individual requires.

The full report – ‘The state of health care and adult social care in England 2015/2016’ - can be downloaded at the CQC’s website free of charge.

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