With delayed discharge fines only a few months away, there are
worrying signs that the already difficult relationship between
social services departments and private sector care homes could be
about to take a turn for the worse. Private care homes in at least
one area of the country are saying that they want a share of the
delayed discharge grant distributed to local authorities before
they will agree to take new residents. As one senior manager puts
it, care homes have got social services “over a barrel”.
While it is true that care homes in some areas deserve a fairer
deal on fees, this is hardly the way to go about achieving it. Many
local authorities are working hard on a varied approach to
intermediate care services involving a mixture of residential and
nursing home care, supported housing and care in people’s own
homes. If care homes insist on a bigger slice of the action, this
delicate balance will be disturbed – to the detriment of older
people as much as to social services themselves.
Worse still, the frequently fragile partnerships established with
health trusts could easily break down if disputes with care homes
flare up nationally. Bed-blocking fines are bad enough in
themselves. Now is not the time to rub salt into the wound.