The Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) today accused care minister Norman Lamb MP of besmirching the reputation of care homes across the country with ill-chosen, over-generalised comments likely to create a negative impression of the quality of service they provide.
Responding to remarks attributed to Mr Lamb, who claimed that care homes can be ‘austere and alien’, RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell said that such a description clashed with the findings of a survey that asked care home residents what they thought of their care.
“Nearly nine out of ten (86%) of the sample interviewed told researchers that they had a say in arranging their own room,” said Mr Ursell. “In addition, almost all of them (98%) said they felt comfortable and safe in their care home.”
The survey, which was carried out by the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent and published in 2011, explored what people expected before they went into a care home and what actually happened to them once they were in residence.
Said Mr Ursell: “Of course we in the care home sector want our residents to feel at ease. The vast majority of care home managers and staff strive constantly to achieve this. Personalisation of care is one of our key objectives.
“Subject to practical considerations, including fire safety regulations, many care homes do allow individuals to bring in their favourite furnishings and to personalise their own rooms. But there are necessarily limits, such as cost and the availability of space, on how far this can go in an environment where as many as forty or fifty people are being cared for.”
He added: “The minister must also bear in mind that the Care Quality Commission’s own guidelines lay down requirements that care homes must follow with regard to the safety of fixtures, fittings and furniture, which need to be designed in such a way as to minimise the risk of harm.
“Coming on top of the CQC chairman’s recent proclamation that his organisation expects to be more robust in taking care homes to court in future, the minister’s statement looks like another attempt to put our sector in the firing line. Perhaps the government should look a little closer to home and take account of the massive cutbacks in public expenditure on services for older people. It is certainly not a question of Mr Lamb practising what he preaches.”
Mr Ursell also drew attention to the apparently different strategies being pursued with regard to NHS hospitals and care homes judged inadequate by CQC inspectors.
“There is little or no talk in the corridors of power about hospitals being taken to court or possibly even closed down entirely. But care homes are facing the prospect of much tougher treatment. And if Mr Lamb thinks care homes can be austere and alien, what has he got to say about the environment in hospitals, where some older patients may be stuck for weeks or even months?
“It would be good to hear more balanced, better informed comments coming from the politician in charge of care for older people in England. We agree that there is room for improvement. No organisation can ever pretend otherwise. The same is true for the government. Mr Lamb should start campaigning within government for greater resources to be invested in adult social care. Otherwise, his words ring rather hollow.”