Between January 2016 and April 2017, local Healthwatch staff and volunteers across England visited 197 care homes across 63 different local authority areas to find out what day to day life is really like for many of those living in care homes.
These homes collectively provide care for almost 3,500 residents ranging from elderly people with dementia to those with severe learning disabilities.
During these visits local Healthwatch spoke with residents, their families and staff, compiling people’s experiences with their own observations to produce 140 reports. These have all been shared with the providers, the public, CQC and Healthwatch England.
The study reviewed what people told local Healthwatch and published a briefing on the common issues that need to improve.
The majority of residents and relatives Healthwatch spoke with, considered the care they received to be good, with innovative homes showing what is possible without breaking the bank.
Local Healthwatch representatives saw staff going above and beyond the call of duty to connect with those they care for and really helping them to live their lives – including one activities co-ordinator from Cheshire who arranged for her own wedding reception to take place in the care home she worked at to enable residents to join in with the party.
However, Healthwatch volunteer visitors also witnessed homes not getting the basics right, with even those providing excellent care failing to tick all the boxes. Issues local Healthwatch found involved the environment, activities, staffing and wider health needs. Residents themselves identified problems with things as simple as getting dressed.
Although some of the reports produced by local Healthwatch organisations raise concerns about people’s experiences, the vast majority of care home managers have responded to the feedback very positively, often agreeing to review processes and making changes very quickly.
Responding to the study, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Councils want to see everyone receive high quality care and for care homes to be of a high standard that meet people’s needs, going beyond simply getting washed and dressed but living as independent and fulfilling a life as possible.
“While it is clear that in some places, there is work to be done and areas for improvement, it is encouraging to note that most people have said the care they receive is good.
“The recent Care Quality Commission report also found that the majority of care provided for adults is rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
“Councils, as commissioners, work closely with providers who deliver services to ensure both the availability of high quality care and continuous improvement.
“But this study is yet another reminder of the stark reality of the funding crisis facing adult social care, and the urgent need to bring desperately needed stability to the provider market.
“While the £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget for social care was a step in the right direction, it is only one-off funding and social care services still face an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020.
“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable solution for social care. This must address the issue of long-term funding, but it must also create the conditions necessary to ensure the development of the right kind of care and support services.”