Revealed: Half of Leeds' nursing homes are below par

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Health regulators and leaders have warned that action must be taken after it was revealed half of the city’s nursing homes are judged to be below par.

Councillors, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) watchdog, and NHS representatives met with care home providers for the Quality & Sustainability in Care Homes: A One City Approach event at Leeds Civic Hall today.

The meeting was organised with aims of re-shaping and improving adult social care services, including residential and nursing homes, in the city which the CQC regularly inspects and rates.

Coun Rebecca Charlwood, Leeds City Council's executive member for health, wellbeing and adults, opened proceedings.

Coun Peter Gruen, chairman of the Adult Social Care, Public Health and NHS Scrutiny Board, also gave a speech and spoke about how half of care homes in Leeds were rated as “Requires Improvement” or “Inadequate” - the CQC’s lowest ratings.

“We noticed very quickly in the reports that there was a very large variation in terms of quality and that concerned us,” he said.
“Imagine as parents, you are told that 50 per cent of schools are not good. I think that would be wholly unacceptable, parents would be absolutely furious.

“Ofsted would be coming in - they would never leave and there would be real, significant implications.
“What we are trying to do is to say ‘hey, in Leeds 50 per cent is not good enough. We need to get up to something significantly better than 50 per cent.’”

Coun Gruen was joined by healthcare professionals and decision-makers who called for a collaboration between agencies, the authority and independent providers to tackle the problem.

Local authorities across the country have been struggling to bridge the funding gap in the ageing population’s adult social care sector as a result of government cuts , leading to the introduction of a discretionary precept on council tax.

According to the CQC’s data, out of a total of 214 community social care, domiciliary care agencies, residential or nursing homes inspected 64 per cent are now considered “Good”.

However, the meeting heard that the city has fallen below the national trend, as one third of those inspected in Leeds required improvement - compared to one fifth on average in England.

Looking closer at the type of services receiving poor ratings, Debbie Westhead, deputy chief inspector for the CQC, said that 49 per cent of Leeds; nursing homes required improvement and seven per cent were judged to be “Inadequate”.

Mrs Westhead said that nationally social care was now at a “tipping point” and that, in order to improve, better collaboration and partnerships was needed.

“We have actually said publicly in our Adult Social Care report of 2016 that social care is at a tipping point,” she said.

“Since publication of that report, there has been a lot of oversight from government and local authorities as to what can we do for social care, how can we support it better.

“I think there has now been an awareness that to support the wider system there has got to be better integration and that’s got to be the way forward for the future.”

The meeting heard that the bloated “Requires Improvement” rating has upper tiers - close to being good but failing often because of documents or errors - and lower tiers near to being “Inadequate”.

Coun Rebecca Charlwood, chairwoman of Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “It’s critical that our response to improving the quality of care is centred on people with the residents and the families at the heart of it.

“At the same time we need to support care businesses to be exam-ready, to show themselves in their best light when they have a CQC inspection because a great warm, welcoming excellent care home that provides great care can easily fall down on paper work and issues about medication.”

The CQC is now drawing up the Quality Matters document, which will set out a “single, shared vision of what quality is for adult social care.”

Backed by Government ministers, the document will set out initial priorities to tackle the sector’s current gap in quality and it includes input from providers, commissioners, the Local

Government Ombudsman, Healthwatch and other organisations.

The CQC will enter its second phase of consultations in May, over plans to update its own frameworks and how it publishes reports following inspections.

Mrs Westhead said ideas include adding visual images to reports and making them more clear and informative.

‘We experience lack of inspection consistency’

Regulatory inspections at care homes can be inconsistent, it has been claimed.

Peter Hodkinson, chairman of Leeds Care Association which includes nursing, residential and domiciliary care providers, spoke about inspections during the event at Leeds Civic Hall today.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England, which monitors and inspects services.

“50 per cent Requires Improvement,” Mr Hodkinson said. “That’s extremely appalling.

“What have we done here in Leeds to deserve such a poor effort?

“Well, is it accurate? And in the sense of Leeds we don’t think it’s accurate because we experience a lack of consistency and prospectus from the CQC.”

He told the meeting that some providers feel the top end of “Requires Improvement” and the bottom end of “Good” ratings are “probably about the same.”

Mr Hodkinson said: “You can be fully compliant to require improvement in accordance with the regulation but also you could be committing several contraventions.

He told the meeting that providers in the city had suffered because the line between subjective and objective in regulation could “become extremely blurred”.