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15.10.15

‘Concerning’ variation in safety standards of care providers – CQC

The CQC has deemed it a key concern that 10% of adult social care providers were rated as inadequate for safety, caused primarily by low staffing levels and poor medicines management.

In its annual report on the state of health and social care in England – the first of which draws on findings from the reformed and more thorough inspections across all sectors – the CQC found times were challenging, with 320 (7%) adult social care providers failing across the board.

It recognised that providers were being asked make savings and meet the complex needs of an ageing population with less money than before, as local authority funding dropped.

These significant cuts to council budgets, joined with increasing pressure from unsustainable care provision, increasing costs, high vacancy rates and pressure from commissioners to keep fees as low as possible, were driving quality down.

In addition to failing providers, 33% of the sector still required improvement.

The report said: “While we recognise the pressure that the system is under, it is vital that the care delivered is of a quality that people have a right to expect.

“Where providers are failing to meet legal standards, we act quickly to ensure that people are protected and services improve. In 2014-15, we issued 937 warning notices to providers, telling them they needed to make urgent improvements.”

Despite this, the social care sector was ahead of hospitals in terms of ratings, with 59% of providers rated as good as 1% rated as outstanding.

These leading providers demonstrated what the investigator had long called for: a consistent registered manager in post to help positively influence the service and make sure people receive safe, effective and responsive care.

They also showed a culture of adopting person-centred care and supporting staff in delivering this care appropriately, with managers ensuring workers received continuous training.

Chief executive of the CQC, David Behan, said: “The health and social care sector is facing an unprecedented level of challenge, so it’s encouraging that our findings show that the majority of people are receiving good or outstanding care.

“However, we have also found a wide variation in the quality of care people receive. Alongside good care we have seen examples of poor and unacceptable care, and we rated 7% of care as inadequate. A key concern has been the safety of the care – a failure to learn when things go wrong, or not having the right number of staff in place with the right skills.”

He added that the sector now faced opportunities to build a more collaborative culture, along with greater transparency and accuracy and tighter partnerships with local and national providers to ensure services are consistent.

The report also stressed that providers must use CQC assessment to improve services. This is especially important to reduce the variation of care quality in spite of financial pressures.

It added that recruitment and retention of staff, particularly of nurses and care support workers, remained a serious challenge within the social care market – but recognised that it is a symptom of system-wide problem within all aspects of healthcare.

The report’s figures were based on ratings carried out up to 31 May, the scope of which included 18% of residential care homes, 27% of nursing homes, 8% of domiciliary care services and 10% of other community services.

While this provided an early picture of the social care sector, the CQC said it was important to note that it prioritised organisations where it already had concerns.

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