Making a care home a home

Short term uncertainty while providers adjust to the ‘homely test’ in the CQC’s new inspection regime and how this will be assessed, should not distract from its long term benefit for residents.

In August, Care Minister Norman Lamb announced that as part of the CQC’s new ratings system for care providers, judgements will be made on how well they create a ‘real sense of an individual’s home’.  In a statement, he said this will be an important aspect when inspectors use the new ratings system to judge care providers either Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate – rankings pioneered by Ofsted when judging education providers.

While the new ratings system to judge the UK’s 25,000 care homes has a specific start date in October 2014, the CQC is yet to clarify exactly how this ‘homely’ criteria will be assessed, According to Mr Lamb, it will entail:

“A willingness to take bit of furniture, bedspreads, curtains, whatever it might be that creates that link can be incredibly important in civilising care homes and making them a real home for someone”

Providers that don’t have such policies in place will have to adapt quickly, and of course find the money to do it at a time when budgets remain tight. Homes that are inspected soon after the changes are implemented could be caught out.

Universalising the criteria also appears difficult.  For example, could a care provider be penalised if a resident did not happen to have their own furniture in their room?  Surely there will be circumstances when this is simply not possible.

But introducing these provisions to the CQC’s inspection regime should drive up standards across the sector, improving quality of life amongst care home residents.  Norman Lamb’s announcement followed a government backed Stirling University report which recommended making residents’ surroundings more familiar, so they feel more comfortable.  This is increasingly the prevailing view, supported by the NHS and Alzheimer’s Society, as well as much anecdotal evidence.

Many care providers are already putting these recommendations in place, introducing a range of initiatives to make the transition into care as smooth as possible.  From allowing pets to accompany residents into care homes, to helping couples continue living together, the trend is clearly helping to move care homes away from the staid stereotype and become ever more welcoming and ‘homely’ for new and existing residents.

This article was first featured in the September print edition of Healthcare Business News

Nick Albrow is an Account Manager at PLMR and regularly works on delivering public affairs and media relations support to a number of clients particularly in the Health & Social Care sector.

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