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Failing care homes risk ‘special measures’ under new proposals

The government is set to announce that in the future failing care homes could be put into ‘special measures’ in an extension of the scheme that regulates poor-performing hospitals.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to make the announcement, which is part of the government’s response to the Stafford Hospital scandal, today.

The new proposals will cover 25,000 services and could lead to the closure of those that fail to improve. In addition, the scheme is not expected to start until spring 2015, as the ratings regime it is based on – which rate services as outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate – will only be rolled out in the social care system from the autumn.

In the future the failure regime may also be rolled out to GP surgeries.

Prior to introducing the new scheme, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated care homes to make sure their services met national care standards.

Andrea Sutcliffe, the CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “Our new ratings regime will start in October and will highlight inadequate services. This will be an unambiguous signal that improvements are needed and we will set out clear expectations, including the timescale to sort out problems and where to go for help.

“People’s confidence in adult social care services has been knocked by shocking examples of poor care. I want to restore confidence by celebrating the good work we do see while also tackling persistent poor performance. Together, we can make sure these services are the best they can be for the benefit of everyone who needs them.”

Last year a review of 14 hospital trusts with higher than expected death rates resulted in 11 of them entering special measures due to a catalogue of failings and fundamental breaches of care.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said: “We have seen significant improvements in almost all of the 11 trusts that were put into special measures, with exceptional progress in two trusts and very good progress in a further three.

“The hard work by trust staff that has underpinned this progress should be recognised. Special measures bring a new focus on quality improvement in trusts which have previously struggled to provide high quality care.”

He added that whenever CQC inspects it always ask the following five questions of every service: Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it caring? Is it responsive to people’s needs? Is it well-led?

Prof Richards said: “The inspections have also underlined to me the importance of good leadership, which is a hallmark of a good or outstanding trust.”

Hunt, however, is expected to say that “thanks to a sharp focus on admitting problems rather than burying heads in the sand, some of these hospitals have tackled their deep-rooted failings for the first time and are on the road to recovery”.

He will add: “Everybody wants to know they can get safe, compassionate care from their local hospital.

“The big difference special measures has made is that concerns of patients and staff are listened to and acted on quickly.”

Janet Morrison, chief executive of charity Independent Age, has welcomed the plans saying that the homes that need to go into special measures are not those where paperwork is out of order but those where the quality of care has fallen below an acceptable standard. “Though the CQC has not always been good at differentiating these two things,” she added.

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