New inspection regime for care homes criticised

The Grange Nursing Home in Warkworth.
The Grange Nursing Home in Warkworth.

The new inspection regime by the regulator for care homes has been questioned, after a string of critical reports for facilities in Northumberland.

The Grange Nursing Home, in Warkworth, was inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in March, with the report, published earlier this month, giving an overall rating of requires improvement.

The facility was rated as good in two categories – being caring and being responsive, but as requiring improvement in the other three – being safe, effective and well-led.

However, manager Joanne Hodge has raised a number of concerns about the CQC’s new inspection regime, which has also come under fire from the management at Alnwick’s Ravensmount Residential Care Home, which was rated inadequate earlier this year.

Ms Hodge has managed The Grange for six years, making the transition from a residential home to a nursing home, and in that time the facility has received excellent reports with no recommendations.

She questions the reasons behind the new inspections being far more critical than in previous years as well as being more critical than similar inspections carried out by the local authority.

Ms Hodge also pointed out that the service can be deemed to require improvement in terms of being safe or being well-led due to administrative issues relating to paperwork.

She appreciates that meeting legislation and guidelines is important, but worries that people will be unduly concerned about their relatives’ safety in homes which require improvement in terms of being safe.

This was echoed by Peter Slee, chairman of trustees at HospiceCare North Northumberland, whose Castleside House, in Alnwick, was also rated as requires improvement. He said that their report ‘highlights a number of issues of an essentially administrative nature’.

Another point raised by Ms Hodge was that certain issues flagged up in the report were resolved within 48 hours of the inspection.

She asked why a timeframe could not be given to deal with these issues and evidence provided to ensure the improvements have been made before publishing the report.

“It’s all very critical, they are not looking to tell you what’s good or give you compliments,” she said. “They should support the homes, not just look for failings or shortfalls.”

A CQC spokesman said: “CQC’s inspection programme, introduced last year, digs deeper and is more robust and comprehensive, allowing us to delve deeper into the effectiveness of a service. The needs of the people using services are at the heart of what we do and the new inspection process has been more effective in identifying substandard care.

“We have, in addition, a range of new enforcement powers that challenges poor performers to improve. Where improvements can be made, these need to be sustained. We will return to a service to re-inspect and report on what we find.

“However, issues of safety and quality of service should not require a CQC visit for action to be taken – service providers need to be striving to deliver quality services at all times.

“If we do find concerns, we work closely with the provider, local council and other stakeholders to drive improvement and ensure the people depending on services are safe and at no risk of immediate harm.”