Pay staff better to improve “unacceptable” standards of Leeds care homes

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Poor pay is fuelling a staffing crisis in Leeds’s care homes - which is in turn driving down overall standards to “unacceptable” levels.

That’s the view of experts at Leeds City Council, who are set to launch a brand new action plan to improve standards after the regulator the Care Quality Commission found that just 48 per cent of homes in the city were rated ‘good’. The national average is 65 per cent.

Council bosses have pledged to put pressure on private care providers to improve pay and conditions for staff, as well as offering ‘enhanced payments’ in the form of premiums to those organisations who push their standards up.

Apart from the handful of homes the authority still runs itself, the council has legal obligations to help shape the wider older people’s care home market.

However it says it has “significant concerns around the quality and sustainability” of the current offer.

A cross-party watchdog committee at Leeds Civic Hall was told earlier today (Tuesday) that the council is carrying out “a significant piece of work to...raise quality of services in the city”.

Mark Phillott, Head of Commissioning for Adult Social Care, told colleagues there were “a number of issues putting pressure on the sector”.

He said that factors like an ageing population, more complex needs and lack of financial stability in the market were contributing to the “unacceptable” CQC rating and 48 per cent figure.

The council has now put together a draft action plan which will ultimately push that figure to 80 per cent, he said.

The meeting was told that there was “significant workforce pressure”, particularly in nursing care.

“Providers tell us they have real difficulty recruiting nurses,” the panel was told.

Councillor Billy Flynn noted that one of the major problems was low pay.

Rebecca Charlwood, the council’s executive member for health, wellbeing and adult care, said this was something she too felt “strongly” about, adding that the authority was conducting “very difficult” and “tense” negotiations with care providers on this issue.

She pointed out that while care home companies need to focus on the business side, “we want to see care staff paid a better wage”.

Senior council officer Caroline Baria told the Adults and Health scrutiny board that better quality homes are those that are retaining their staff and have good management in place

She said an “enhanced payment” scheme, which would operate like a “quality premium” was being considered as part of the council’s action plan.

“We can’t dictate what they pay their staff, but the premium can be a bit of a carrot”, she said.

The meeting heard a new “care quality team” is also being recruited to “help make sustainable improvements, get a good handle on the issues and address them quickly”.

A “leadership academy” is also being developed to train and retain high quality managers, the panel was told.

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