The Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) says it is surprised and disappointed that the Care Quality Commission expects in future to be much more likely to use the courts to drive up standards in failing care homes.
This follows comments by the CQC chairman, David Prior, about plans to strengthen his legal team and gear up for a greater use of the court system to settle disputes about the quality of care being provided.
Said RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell: “Would it not be more appropriate for Mr Prior to be talking about ways of strengthening the help he and his inspection teams could give to care homes that are struggling to meet the requisite standards?
“We in the RNHA are disappointed that the chairman of the regulator is going down this highly adversarial route. The money the CQC chairman intends to spend on lawyers would be better spent on delivering training, education and other types of support to care home managers and staff. That is much more likely to result in better care for patients.”
He added: “We agree that poor care has to be tackled and we support measures intended to do that. But whilst legal action may be necessary in some cases, it sounds as though the threshold for court proceedings against care homes will soon be much lower than it is now. That smacks of a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ policy.”
Mr Ursell also questioned whether, in the regulator’s eyes, there was going to be one law for the care home sector and one for the NHS. He asked: “Does it boil down to improving an NHS hospital when it fails to reach the desired standard but closing a care home?”
The RNHA will be seeking clarification of Mr Prior’s plans. Said Mr Ursell: “We want to know whether NHS hospitals will also be taken to court if they are judged ‘inadequate’ in their ability to provide safe care to patients? A hospital with an unsafe critical care unit, for example, must surely be capable of inflicting more acute harm on more people than any poorly run care home could ever do.”