Care home standards improving

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A FINAL report from Scotland’s Care Commission, before their inspection role is taken over by Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWIS), shows that standards are improving in care homes for the elderly but there is still room for improvement.

And when Scottish Borders councillors meet today they are being asked to continue keeping a close eye on care for the elderly following their own recent review of the 18 independent care homes in the region.

David Wiseman, the Care Commission’s acting chief executive said: “Although the majority of services provide good standards of care, we continue to encounter poor services that need to improve. Where we have found poor or bad practice we have demanded that improvements are made and where necessary, used our range of powers to enforce change and compliance.

“The hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland who use care services or have a family member who needs a care service, expect nothing less.”

Across Scotland a total of 23 care homes for older people (2.5%) are still achieving grades of 1s and 2s (unsatisfactory and weak) and following inspections they also had the most requirements, upheld complaints and enforcements made against them.

On the plus side the report also shows standards at care homes for older people have improved, with the number of services achieving grades of 5s and 6s (very good and excellent) rising from 60 (6.5%) in 2009 to 146 (15.8%) in 2010.

When Scottish Borders Council undertook their ‘Transforming Older People Services’ review recently concerns were expressed about independent care home provision and the council decided to carry out their own review.

Councillors will be told today, Thursday, March 24, that in the 18 independently owned care homes in the Borders “overall the provision of care is good”.

As the council spends around £6.27 million a year on care home provision: £3.16 million on residential care; £3.27 million on nursing care; and £734,000 on free personal and nursing care, they need to know that the standard of care they are funding for 380 elderly people in these homes is good enough.

Their independent care homes review included a financial health check and only Victoria Lodge in Coldstream raised concerns. However, in the last few months the residential care home for up to 14 elderly clients was taken over by Berwick Care Homes after previous owners Nightingale Care Limited went into liquidation and it’s future now seens more secure. It is one of five Borders homes that received overall ratings of weak at its last inspection; 12 requirements were highlighted and the home is now one of four in the region considered to be in need of regular assessment.

Lennel House in Lennel, just outside Coldstream, is the only other independent care home in Berwickshire and it scored an overall rating of good, with one requirement highlighted and in need of only low level assessment.

In the report before Borders councillors it said: “A large number of properties have been modified from large country houses to serve as care homes. The type and location of properties therefore can present a challenge as they are not always suitable to be adapted to single rooms with en-suite facilities.

“The environment is not always suitable to be adapted to single rooms with en-suite facilities. The environment is not always suitable or practical for older people with dementia. Owing to their physical remoteness and number of homes can be challenging for family members and staff to visit and work.

“Staffing and the quality of management and leadership are identified to a standard above the Scottish national average with the recruitment and supervision of staff being variable.”

There are still staffing issues in some homes and three Borders care homes have actively sought to recruit from overseas.

Councillors are being asked to agree seven recommendations relating to private care homes in the Borders to maintain standards of care. These include improving communications between themselves, care home providers and national agencies, ensuring that all care homes have business continuity and contingency plans and that training and support is available for staff working with people with dementia.