Families denied information on ex-Southern Cross homes

Families will struggle to judge the quality of former Southern Cross care homes because they cannot access information on past performance, it has emerged. Care Quality Commission chief executive Cynthia Bower (left) has promised to look into the issue.

Families will struggle to judge the quality of former Southern Cross care homes because they cannot access information on past performance, it has emerged.

Historic inspection reports from the homes while under Southern Cross management will not be available on the Care Quality Commission website following transfer to new operators as homes are registered as different legal entities.

This applies even when the staff and management of the home has remained the same.

The Care Quality Commission has promised to look into the issue and chief executive Cynthia Bower yesterday admitted that it was a “challenge”.

She was responding to a question from Sue Anderson, cabinet member for adults and communities at Birmingham Council, at the National Children and Adult Services Conference.

Anderson said a local carers’ forum had raised concerns with her about the issue.

“It’s a challenge,” said Bower. “Because we register a legal entity, when that legal entity changes the history goes [but] the same people keep running the service..”

She said she would be looking into whether people could access “legacy information” on performance, but added: “I am not sure whether it will be possible.”

In a session on the CQC’s new regulatory model, Bower also suggested that there may be a case for personal assistants to be regulated as a profession, going beyond existing government plans to set up a voluntary register of care workers, including PAs.

Responding to a question about why home care services were regulated and PAs doing similar work were not, Bower said that “it may be better that PAs are regulated as a profession” rather than by the CQC.

Bower also signalled she would not favour the CQC taking responsibility for a new ratings system to evaluate providers’ quality above the essential standards that it regulates against.

Plans to set up a voluntary “excellence award” for services that exceeded essential standards, funded by providers and operated by other accreditation agencies, have been ditched by ministers after being universally rejected by the sector.

Bower said the Department of Health and CQC were now considering an alternative replacement to the star ratings system for providers that was ditched last year.

Provider leaders favour the resurrection of something like the star ratings, with a sliding scale of quality judgements, operated by CQC.

But Bower said: “We don’t have the capacity to be interested in standards above the essential standards.”

However, she added that if providers fully complied with the essential standards all the time there would be a “big improvement” in quality.

“The [essential standards] are quite aspirational – we didn’t go for the lowest common denominator.”

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