The Care Quality Commission has promised to act on any new evidence from a critical Panorama investigation into home care services, which was screened on BBC One last week.
Chief executive Cynthia Bower said the CQC’s predecessor, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, had been working to address concerns in some services provided by two of the organisations featured in the programme, Care UK and Carewatch.
But she added: “Any evidence shown in the Panorama programme that we were not aware of will be followed up as a matter of urgency. Where necessary, we will use our statutory powers to take action to protect the welfare of people who use those services. Ultimately we can, and will, close down any care providers that fail to make improvements required of them.”
Two reporters worked undercover as carers for Care UK, Carewatch and Domiciliary Care (Scotland).
The programme found failings identified in an October 2008 Commission for Social Care Inspection probe into Care UK’s services in Harrow, London, including a lack of care plans in clients’ homes and plans that were out of date, had not been put right.
Care UK apologised for this and said that within a week of the reporter’s departure, all care plans had been fully updated.
At Carewatch, the reporter found her training consisted of four 20-minute DVDs and a tutorial lasting 90 minutes, and that she was allowed to work 14 shifts without a Criminal Records Bureau check. The company said this was an administrative error for which it apologised.
She also found tight schedules for care appointments which did not factor in travel time, meaning she was frequently late. The company denied travel time was not factored into schedules, but promised to ensure lessons from the investigation were learned.
Domiciliary Care (Scotland)
The reporter in Scotland found that copies of care plans were not kept in Domiciliary Care (Scotland) clients’ homes, as required, and found that she often had little time for visits.
Domiciliary Care was taken over by Choices Care Group six months ago, which said an internal investigation had proven some of the programme’s allegations, including curtailed visits. It said changes were now being implemented.
Broadcaster Joan Bakewell, the government’s advisor on ageing, said of the programme: “I’m not altogether surprised, but the proof is really tragic and scandalous. It’s easy to say but something must be done. Somebody must take responsibility for these lapses in standards and must ensure that standards are kept in the future.”
The programme also raises concerns about the price at which Domiciliary Care had been awarded a contract by South Lanarkshire Council – £9.95 an hour – following an online auction. The council declined to be interviewed for the programme but launched an investigation on the back of its findings.
The United Kingdom Homecare Association said price was an issue for local authority commissioners, not providers of services.
UKHCA chair Mike Padgham said: “Providers would be delighted to be able to reward workers better and to raise the quality of service through more training and better retention of experienced staff, but regrettably this is often not possible under the current purchasing arrangements. Rather than a case of abuses by “big business”, this is a response to short sighted purchasing policies by local authorities, driven to make on-going efficiency savings set by central government.”
- Have your say on the state of home care services on CareSpace.
- Read our blog on the Panorama programme.