A perfect storm?

Two stories relating to social care have caught my eye in the last few days.  The first was an article in The Guardian which claims that the imminent crisis in the residential care home sector will dwarf the current problems of the UK steel industry.  The second comes from the Chief Executive’s report to the CQC Board Meeting on 22 October in which David Behan states that the CQC is currently behind in reaching its target to have rated all adult social care, GP and out of hours services by 30 September 2015.   This was then picked up by social media (as was The Guardian article) and prompted a discussion on LinkedIn.

The Guardian article focused on the financial problems facing some of the biggest care home providers, and gave the example of Four Seasons, which owns 470 homes nationwide with over 22.000 beds.  The article points out that the company is “struggling under £500m of debt”, and needs to make an interest payment of £26m in December to satisfy its creditors, otherwise it may go into administration.

The article goes on to quote Marin Green, the chief executive of Care England, as saying that the crisis in the sector would dwarf the problems in the steel industry.  Green says:

We are looking at Redcar happening twice a month if care homes go down.  These people can only be looked after in care homes and hospitals. If Jeremy Hunt thinks he has a problem with bed blocking now, it is nothing on what it is going to be like if these care homes start to close. Hospitals won’t be able to do elective care because they will be full of old people.

David Behan’s remarks regarding inspection targets are relevant here because if there is an impending crisis looming in the care industry then this had serious implications for quality of care.  What happens to all those residents if a major care home provider goes bust?  When Southern Cross went out of business in 2011 the industry managed to absorb the impact, but if this starts happening on a larger scale then it’s unclear what will happen.  There is a real danger that the core standards of care, encapsulated in the five CQC ‘domains’,  will become compromised as the remaining providers struggle to pick up the pieces.  And this is exactly the wrong time for the CQC to be behind on its inspection schedule.

David Behan put the problems down to:

….the time it has taken to both recruit the required numbers of inspectors and to ensure they are fully trained to conduct inspections, and the lower than expected level of productivity required as all inspectors get up to ‘full speed’ in delivering our new approach…

Rather ominously, Behan goes onto say that the CQC is being asked to consider 25% and 40% budget cuts ahead of the Spending Review.  This suggests that the CQC may be even further stretched over the next financial year.   This couldn’t have come at a worse time in light of the potential melt down in social care provision.

Cue for some serious (and smart) rethinking in the social care industry…….?

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