December 3, 2009

UK: Thousands condemned to live in squalid care homes

. LONDON, England / The Times / Life & Style / Health / December 3, 2009 A carer holds the hand of a North London care home resident. Photo: Anna Branthwaite By Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent Thousands of frail and elderly people are living in care homes that fail to meet the most basic standards, a damning report reveals today. In the most comprehensive assessment yet of homes in England, the new watchdog found that more than 10,000 people are living in squalid conditions and receiving inadequate care. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has threatened to close 400 homes unless they are improved immediately. It described a further 3,500 homes, where 70,000 people reside, as “adequate”, the second-lowest rating. It criticised councils for sending people to the worst homes, apparently with little regard for their welfare. Local authorities foot the bill for about half the 440,000 care home residents. The report reignites fears that Britain is ill prepared to cope with an ageing population. The quality of residential care will be a major issue at next year’s general election, with both big parties vying to overhaul how care is paid for and to drive up standards. The commission names eight councils, including Surrey, Bromley and Southwark, which have been asked to explain to ministers why they provide such poor-quality care. Last night Southwark described the new inspection regime as flawed and inaccurate and demanded a parliamentary inquiry into its methods. The CQC has already been under fire this week for failing to spot trouble at a number of hospitals, including Basildon in Essex. Although overall ratings for care homes have improved in the past 12 months, with more being rated excellent or good than a year ago, the CQC said that those rated poor were failing to provide the basics of care. The inspections highlight concerns over staff supervision, health and safety, and the way that medication is handled. One in five homes failed to provide adequate activities and opportunities for residents to socialise. [rc] Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.