Front-line homing instincts

Jacquie Roberts heads up Scotland’s independent care regulatory body. Here, she tells Derren Hayes why she is so personally committed to driving up standards

Jacquie Roberts, chief executive of the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care, likes to join the front line to assess how the services she regulates are working.

This even extends to visits to see her family in England where, as Community Care has arranged to meet her, she is due to spend the night at the care home her mother lives in.

It is an ethos Roberts, who has led the commission since its inception five years ago, has always had. During her stint as director of older people’s services in Dundee 10 years ago she would sometimes work a ight shift at a care home.

“Once, a robber broke in but I managed to identify him and he was caught,” she says proudly.

Of course, not everyone gets to see the workings of a care home at such close quarters when choosing one for a family member or themselves.

It is something Roberts herself grappled with when finding a home for her mother. And she admits she did not get it right first time.

It is for this reason that the commission, like its counterparts in the rest of the UK, has introduced a search facility on its website to help people choose a service and see what inspectors have to say about them. It has also adopted a six-point scale for assessing performance.

“The informed consumer needs to get more into care services and I keep talking to Scottish ministers about promoting the care standards.

Our first stakeholder survey showed just 9 per cent of care home residents knew about our services,” she says. Roberts admits concerns remain about the general quality of care available. The commission’s annual report revealed a 22 per cent rise in the number of complaints received, a significant proportion about older people’s care homes.

Roberts says: “The rise in complaints is mostly down to raised awareness of people’s entitlements and the care standards, but I have concerns about homes and there’s major room for improvement.

“There are about 4,000 nurses in care homes in Scotland and they need a lot of training, supervision and help with palliative care, medication management, infection control and awareness of pressure sores. It is something we will be focusing on this year.”

It has appointed a nurse consultant, Belinda Dewar, and nutrition champions to help address nurses’ knowledge and training gaps – one of the advantages of having healthcare as part of the commission’s remit.

This fulfils what Roberts believes is a key role of a modern regulator, to promote good practice and help “do something” when issues arise. The focus on care homes will mean there will be no reduction in inspection frequency for residential care services for older people or children, despite a Scottish executive consultation on reducing frequency in other areas, such as housing support.

However, she says the commission is developing “more sophisticated ways of assessing which services we need to pay more attention to”. This could see poor providers receive more intense scrutiny, although unannounced visits will continue to play a part in every provider’s annual inspection.

And with Roberts’ fondness for sampling services first hand, providers should not be surprised if one day she comes knocking on their door. 


● It regulates 21 service areas, including child care, children’s and older people’s residential homes, adoption agencies and hospice care.
● It regulates 15,000 care services used by 320,000 people.
● Children’s services account for 71 per cent of its work, contrary to perceptions that it is focused on older people.

Contact the author
Derren Hayes

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