CQC defends home closure policy

The CQC has defended its decision to close unsafe care homes as the sudden closure of a West Sussex care home was featured on BBC TV’s Inside Out South East yesterday.

In the BBC TV documentary, distraught relatives recounted how Horncastle House in East Grinstead, operated by Sussex Healthcare, was closed “at a moment’s notice” in September due to concerns about residents choking. Residents and staff criticised the CQC for its heavy-handed approach to dealing with the closure.

Under fire from the Health and Social Care Committee over its inspection processes, CQC chair Peter Wyman defended his inspectorate, saying that a harder line by inspectors was not to blame for increasing numbers of care home closures or poor ratings. He told MPs: “We are trying to take exactly the same approach. We may be getting better at identifying issues, but I suspect that what is actually happening is a deterioration in quality in the homes… rather than that we have moved the goalposts.”

During the grilling from MPs, CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm reassured MPs that the CQC was “very much alive” to the fact that, in certain parts of the country, a rating of ‘requires improvement’ would result in a cut in local authority commissioning.

“The impact locally can be quite significant,” he said, “[but] we have to balance taking that into account with the idea of patient safety. Frankly, we cannot compromise on safety. If we think that something needs to be called out, we have to do that.”

The CQC was not ignorant of the difficult operating environment for care homes, added outgoing CQC chief inspector for social care Andrea Sutcliffe, who called on MPs to lobby the Department of Health and Social Care for “a lot more support and leadership capacity” for care home managers. Sutcliffe said: “We see [homes] hand contracts back to local authorities because they cannot sustain them; we also see services going out of business. Sometimes that is not because we said they should go; it is because they do not feel that they can sustain the service they want to provide. The sector as a whole is very fragile.”

Sutcliffe also said there could be better integration between health and social care. “Social care can transform people’s lives in all sorts of different ways. It is not just there to help the health service to survive; it is there to support people and ensure that they are able to live their lives as well as they can.  We should not just think about the NHS or about what is happening in hospitals. We should think about what is happening in the community and about what people need, because patients are people before they are patients, so that the whole system can proceed. The NHS does not stop at the care home door.”  



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