Care providers demand return to star ratings-style system

Social care leaders have called for a similar system to the quality ratings scheme scrapped last year to be introduced to assess adult providers after plans to introduce an excellence award were scrapped

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Social care leaders have called for a similar system to the quality ratings scheme scrapped last year to be introduced to assess adult providers after plans to introduce an excellence award were scrapped.

There is strong backing for a compulsory scheme for all providers that recognises gradations of quality in both the residential and home care sectors and is operated by the Care Quality Commission – just like the quality ratings system, also known as star ratings.

None of these facets applied to the excellence award, which would have been voluntary, outsourced to other bodies by the CQC and would have only recognised one standard – excellent.

This week, CQC chair Jo Williams sounded the death knell of the award, which was universally opposed by the sector in a consultation that closed last month.

She told the National Care Association conference: “It’s clear yourselves and others have said it’s not going to work and it doesn’t add value. We put all the results of our consultation to the Department of Health and while we’ve not had a formal response I saw the minister [Paul Burstow] and he understands it’s a universal thumbs down so I can’t see it happening.”

“[A new system] has to be compulsory and done by regulation so everybody is treated equally,” said Colin Angel, policy director for the United Kingdom Homecare Association.

He said it needed to “reward the very best” and also “acknowledge the ones achieving good results without being excellent”.

“The CQC should fulfil its responsibility to regulate the care, to inspect, to register and inspect the care system and to make judgements about the care and not to put it out the door, which will create risk,” said Nick Johnson, chief executive of the Social Care Association.

Voluntary Organisations Disability Group general secretary John Adams stressed there should be no new costs for providers from a new scheme at a time when councils were squeezing payments to providers. Applicants for the excellence award would have had to have paid a fee.

He said it should also draw on the advantages of the former quality ratings scheme: “The quality ratings incentivised providers to achieve better results. People were only commissioned if they achieved certain star ratings.”

Angel added that any revised scheme should be equally applicable to residential and domiciliary care. The UKHCA had said the definition of excellence proposed for the award, which included that service users should be able to maintain good relationships with others and spend time purposefully, was inappropriate for home care providers.

A DH spokesperson said: “We are committed to the development of a scheme that helps people choose between providers, recognises quality beyond the essential standards and encourages quality improvement by providers. Responses to the consultation will now be carefully considered to ensure that any new scheme meets these objectives and has the support of the sector.”

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