Failing care services will be tackled through the same special measures used to improve poor-performing hospitals, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced today.
The system of special measures, introduced in 11 NHS Trusts following the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital scandal, will now be extended to care homes and home care agencies.
The scheme will cover 25,000 services and is expected to be rolled out from April next year, following the introduction of a new social care ratings system this Autumn.
The Care Quality Commission’s new ratings system will give health and social care services a rating of outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate, in order to highlight where improvements are needed.
Any services rated as inadequate face being put into special measures and given a limited time to make improvements. If they fail to improve, the CQC will be able to close them down.
Andrea Sutcliffe, chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC, said: “I am clear that abuse, neglect and poor care will not be tolerated. We need to shine a spotlight on this poor practice and make sure that services improve. If they do not, they will have to face the consequences.”
The model of special measures currently used in the NHS gives health regulators five types of action to take to improve a failing hospital, including partnership with an underperforming trust and the appointment of an improvement director.
Five of the 11 hospitals have come out or are coming out of special measures and all have made progress.
The CQC will now work in partnership with the Department of Health, social care providers and service users and their families to develop the details of a similar regime for care services.
Many social care providers have welcomed the extension of special measures to failing care homes but some have expressed concerns that the system should be used as rarely as possible.
Sheila Scott OBE at the National Care Association said: “We at National Care Association hope that this will be an arrangement that is rarely used but as an organisation that represents responsible care providers, we believe that in certain circumstances, special measures will focus attention on rapid improvement.”
Stephen Burke, director of online ratings service GoodCareGuide.co.uk, added: “We need more resources, good managers and well trained staff in care homes. Putting a care home into special measures should be the last resort. The CQC needs to heed the early warning signs from older people and their families.”