Users and carers’ opinions on care services will be published alongside ratings of their quality on an online “good care guide” designed to replace the star ratings scrapped last year, Paul Burstow has said.
The care services minister said he wanted to develop a social care comparison site – along the lines of travel websites such as TripAdvisor – to provide service users with real-time information to help them choose care homes or domiciliary care providers.
The site will combine information from inspection reports, details about any abuse committed by staff, feedback from service users and relatives and reports from the local Healthwatch, the organisation responsible for representing users and the public in the care system.
Burstow said the idea had come from user and carer groups, as part of the government’s engagement process to shape next spring’s White Paper on adult social care, which closed on 2 December.
“Measures like publishing social care comparison sites and opening care services up to greater scrutiny will revolutionise the way people and their loved-ones choose their social care,” he said.
“It can’t be right that you can find out exactly what a hotel or restaurant is like, in just a short time searching the web, but people have so much trouble working out the standards of different care homes and home care providers – when that choice is so much more important.
The move was welcomed by user-led body the National Centre for Independent Living. If introduced and maintained effectively, this will enable disabled and older people to build confidence and develop and share their own views about what good quality care means to them which we know can differ greatly,” said NCIL’s policy and external relations manager Bernd Sass. “As a further step we would like to see user-reported outcomes built into contract monitoring if disabled and older people do not already act as commissioners of their own care and support.”
The Department of Health said there would be a rating for each service but has not issued details as yet as to what form this would take and how this would be derived. These will be set out in the White Paper.
Care providers and other sector leaders are keen for the Care Quality Commission to assess and score all services against a sliding scale of quality, in addition to regulating them against minimum standards, along the lines of the star ratings system scrapped last year.
A proposal to set up an excellence award, which providers would volunteer and pay to apply for and with the assessment process outsourced by the CQC to other bodies, was ditched this year amid universal opposition from the sector.
Under Burstow’s plan, service users’ relatives would be encouraged to join local Healthwatch teams, which would visit care homes and domiciliary care services and speak to users about their experiences and publish reports on their findings.
Care homes with state-funded residents will, by law, have to admit Healthwatch representatives to come in to speak to residents, and ministers are looking into how this can be extended to homes made up only of private-paying service users.