Care homes face registration delays

Care homes are experiencing delays in
applications for registration and for criminal record checks on new

After just a month of operation the National
Care Standards Commission has admitted it has a backlog of
unprocessed applications.

The commission has suffered delays since its
launch on 1 April because many of its regional offices were not
ready to open. To avoid confusion it has centralised the processing
of applications at its national headquarters in Newcastle. Most of
the 71 regional offices are now operating and have been sent the
part-processed applications.

An NCSC helpline operated by four staff was
inundated with up to 1,500 requests a day in early April and the
commission was forced to use a call centre to handle queries.

It has received 11,000 applications for
registrations, many of them from care home managers. Priority is
being given to new providers. Other registrations could take
several weeks.

An NCSC spokesperson said: “We are asking
people to be patient. We have made enormous progress and are on
track to meet our targets.”

Sheila Scott, head of the National Care Homes
Association, said: “I have got a great deal of sympathy for the
commission but I have even more sympathy for those homes waiting
for registration. But I am delighted the commission is keeping us
informed of the problems rather than leaving us in the dark.”

Care homes are also facing delays of up to
five weeks in applications for the criminal record checks required
before they can employ a new member of staff.

The NCSC has issued interim guidance on
recruitment following concerns that delays would mean that some
homes would be penalised for being understaffed.

The guidance, which only applies to adult
services, includes the requirement for “robust and rigorous” checks
and that new employees sign a declaration that they do not have a
criminal record.

Frank Ursell, chief executive officer of the
Registered Nursing Home Association, said: “The government should
defer the introduction of criminal record checks until the system
has had a chance to bed-in.”

A Criminal Records Bureau spokesperson said it
hoped by the end of June to reach its target of processing 90 per
cent of enhanced applications within three weeks and basic
applications within seven days.

Meanwhile, new guidelines from the NCSC
published this week reveal that existing care homes for both older
people and younger adults must not reduce staffing levels that were
in place at the end of March over the next 12 months.

The guidelines for inspectors state that the
NCSC will assess the needs of residents and look at staffing levels
required under the previous regulatory regime. If levels are
thought too low, the NCSC “will not hesitate to place additional
staffing requirements on individual providers”.

For all new applications for registration, the
NCSC will use guidance to assess the suitability of staffing
levels, which is based on the estimated number of care hours
required by residents with various levels of dependency.

The guidance will be available by mid-May at Further guidance will be issued by the
Department of Health to clarify staffing levels after 12

Guidelines on Staffing Levels in
Existing Care Homes
, from

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