Should Laws Governing Care Homes Be Laxed?
In recent years the news has been full of stories of care home failures. However, despite these headline grabbing scandals, changes are being made to the Health and Social Care Act 2008, which look set to make care guidelines more lax.
Diluted Regulations a Concern
Of course, many care homes provide exceptional care to their residents, a fact that is recognised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). But the trimming down of a number of regulations is causing significant concern for a lot of people. For example, care homes will no longer be required to make their residents aware of complaints procedures. They will also no longer need to provide a choice of food or to put emergency procedure plans in place. In fact, according to the Chair of the Relatives and Residents Association, Judy Downey, the new ‘soft-touch’ approach is likely to be “pretty disastrous”. This is despite reassurance from the government that the general provisions for safe care, nutrition and complaints handling will provide a similar level of safeguarding as the current regulations. Such concern is understandable when the quality of life for residents is called into question.
The matter was raised in the Commons Committee recently. However, little or no concern was shown for the proposed dilution of regulation. Instead, MPs appeared eager to close the debate and move on, even before all points had been addressed.
Abuse Allegations Common
The over-regulation of care homes has, indeed, been a hot topic of debate for many years, with perhaps the loudest complaints heard from care home operators themselves. Whilst there are sometimes valid reasons for the frustrations, it seems now is not the time to be implementing the lighter touch. Just 24 hours before the committee meeting, it was reported by the Health and Social Care Information Centre that 2013-14 saw more than 100 allegations of abuse in care homes investigated by English councils each day (35,810).
The dilution of rules is a concern for those undertaking such investigations, and reassurances have been made that any CQC inspection would continue to have expectations for emergency plans and transparent complaints procedures to be in place, regardless of the changes in regulatory obligation.
According to the Department of Health, the new proposals, alongside new CQC guidelines, will be sufficient to ensure measures are appropriate and effective. However, many remain unconvinced of this fact. The last hope remains pinned on the upcoming House of Lords consideration of the changes. Whilst they cannot refuse to pass them altogether, they can return them back to the Commons to be more carefully thought out.
The CQC and the government have a responsibility to ensure regulations remain tough in order to guarantee the safety and proper care of residents in care homes throughout the UK.