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Financial Times expose on care homes must reading for Cameron and Lansley

Posted on 31 May 2011 | 8:05am

It says something for the hold the downmarket papers have over the broadcasters that the Financial Times’ lead story did not make it onto the bulletins this morning. Cheryl Cole’s absence from X Factor, house prices and continuing shenanigans at Fifa are still deemed more important than the standard of service in care homes.

I will quote the FT intro in full … ‘Britain’s care homes face a deepening crisis as some private-sector companies that piled into the sector struggle with their financial miscalculations amid fresh evidence that they provide worse quality care than their non-profit rivals.’

That assertion is supported by an analysis over three pages which ought to be on the top of ministerial in-trays, from the PM down.

It should also give them further cause for pause on the direction of travel of their planned NHS reforms. Interestingly, and seemingly coincidentally, it appears on the day FT columnist Phil Stephens urges the government simply to drop the NHS Bill.

When TB was PM, we were sometimes too keen to imagine that the private sector would be likely to deliver better care if given a chance. That trend has been accelerated under the coalition, and once again we see that it ain’t necessarily so. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. It should certainly not be turned into an ideology.

Elsewhere in the media jungle, the Guardian reports that despite all their talk of tackling the costs of consultancy and justifying every penny of public money spent, the coalition has contracted private companies at the rate of £56million a day, including money spent on getting rid of quangoes.

Talking of social care, tonight’s Panorama investigating the alleged abuse of disabled, autistic and suicidal people in care looks like it is worth watching. Today’s FT is certainly worth reading. My normal advice to politicians is not to read the papers, but Mr Cameron and Mr Lansley should definitely take a look at the Pink ‘Un this morning.

  • Cameron and Lansley have no say on “Britain’s care homes” only England’s care homes – it’s called devolution.

    Why don’t you call for equal funding for English people? Who right now are getting around £1800 less per person per year funding than people in Scotland for no good reason.

  • MicheleB

    I have no idea how any  of this is going to get better, the work must be part wonderfully fulfilling but part horrendous.  I remember a programme about a woman who looked after her Alzheimer’s-afflicted husband for 10+ years and how spiteful and violent things became.


  • Anonymous

    ‘When TB was PM, we were sometimes too keen to imagine that the private sector would be likely to deliver better care if given a chance. . . it ain’t necessarily so. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. It should certainly not be turned into an ideology.’

    Absolutely right.  As head of a third sector supplier to public sector organisations, my view is that it’s all about the quality of the commissioning, including the reasons for doing it.

    If public sector managers (service managers as well as procurement) are clear about why they are putting stuff out to tender, and design their tender specification to address these needs, and then go through a proper process -not just via the clear EU tendering rules, which virtually all do – but by really deciding whether quality is as important or more important than cost, specifying accordingly, fully evaluating the tenders (not just on paper, but by interviews, visits, testing etc) and then – crucially – managing the contract, addressing issues and taking corrective action where necessary, the results are likely to be good.

    Clarity, evaluation, management, communication and action.  Not rocket science.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Just came back from the centre of town and have not read the papers yet, but a couple of observations.
    Before that I say that I do live in a town with a population of 73,000. But we have FT, the Observer, the Guardian and the Independent available here.
    These papers are always worth reading, especially the Guardian and the Observer.
    Mrs T said that she did not read the papers, but as far as I know Bernard Ingham read them for her. (I have a signed copy of Sir Bernard´s book!)
    The Tories have this mantra that private is always best. But public services are the guarantors of civilised society.
    Public sector has the ethos of service, private sector is interested in profit.
    The health service must cling to Bevan´s egalitarian vision.
    The rationale for funding the NHS through taxation is clear. Bevan regarded the alternative, an insurance-based system, as absurd.
    Funding through general taxation has made possible universal entitlement based on need.
    As for the Nordic model, I admit that there have been changes to it in recent years. Labour market reform, fiscal conservatism and tax cutting.
    Sweden, home of the high-tax social market economy, embraces private sector participation.

  • Davembruce

    I agree with the heading and flow of your article with ref to private companies taking on caregiver, and now feeling the pinch in drop in ‘profits’, BUT as all privately owned and by that statement I mean NO BIG companies, they have beenfeeling the ‘pinch’for the last 10-15 years with RED TAPE increases every year.
    My family run a carehome in Newquay ,Cornwall and my mother in law at the age of 65, does not take a wage from the business and has spent most of her savings in keeping it going, just to keep the residents in a warm and loving environment which we all want for our elderly

  • Richard

    Until the whole pensions issue and welfare of the elderly is taken out of the political football game and treated as a fundamental issue beyond politics, we will all tut tut when the horror stories come up, then be returned to the “celebrity diet” we have come to accept.
    QV, AC’s quote from the FT today, and ITV had news this morning that Beckham had run into the back of a vehicle in LA.

  • Marion

    Just like MPs – there are good, bad and terrible care homes! Inspectors and regulators need more training to uncover abuse and poor practice. Very challenging people need committed and well trained staff – and not cheap untrained staff.

  • Simon Landau

    I agree that clarity of purpose is important prior to tender specification (and thus what form and what providers the service needs).  But equally important are the operational schedules post-contract formation (but prior to signature).  I concede the need for contract details to be kept confidential but would call on all private and public bodies to publish the details of operational schedules whenever public services are contracted.  It is these schedules that will determine how the contract will be managed and how service levels will be maintained, varied and at times traded off against price.

  • Keane Sinéad

    A society which fails those most in need is not a society.’One of the greatest diseases is to be a nobody to anybody’

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I agree – would have no problem with publishing details of what should be delivered under the contract and the performance targets by which contractors are going to be judged, and then reporting regularly, publicly, against them.

  • Robert

    A significant part of the problem, in our family’s experience of looking after mom when she first became ill in 2005, is fear of the unknown – seeing someone one loves and who one knows is a loving caring person change character.

    One useful step would be education.

    A lesson once a week at school for a term on how we all age and what may be expected of folk in each decade of their lives.

    Could be a useful contribution to the BS but this government would never fund it, would it?

    With the right treatment and good care mom lived another five years and could well have bobbed along for another five had it not been for her fall.

  • MicheleB

    For once I agree with you Bling; I do get amazed at those families that think consigning their family member to professional carers and moaning about the lack of quality in that provision.

  • MicheleB

    Having heard recently that care of the elderly is going to take a third or more of NHS resources in a few years due to our living so much longer and having more time to acquire multiple serious degenerative illnesses, I can’t help wondering how the GP-procurement of that care will cope.

    If GPs are going to handle their own budgets, going to have to make time to go out to inspect care homes, going to have to be answerable to families re that provision themselves …. more problems ahead (not to mention more time taken from actually doctoring).


  • Jo Willcox

    I agree with you. It it is in my view immoral to make a profit from peoples’ ill health, whether young or old. I’m sure that there are really lovely people running their own care homes, but when as a student nurse I worked in various care homes and they were awful. It was one of the most depressing experiences of nursing that I have had.

    It really frightens me to think about it because I’m afraid it will get worse unless something radical is done.

    All this talk of fiscal problems, national debt etc, but I can’t see many wealthy people loosing out. I know I sound like a sixth former, but why can’t we tax the rich? (Oh yeah, because Andrew Lloyd Webber said he’d leave the counrty if Labour ever got in, however, unfortuately he didn’t). Is that libel?


  • Anonymous


    I read this article and guess what, nobody wants to talk about it – oops, sorry the meejerks (media jerk offs) wants to discuss.

    Relevance to this blog – oooh, maybe about 100% plus brown stuff about to hit the fan for DC and the Bullingdon Cabinet.

    Ok, Kenneth Roy of the Scottis Review may not be to every ones taste, but this is well written and thought out, and please someone take interest. For every 10 people moved out of a retiral home, at least 3 will die within a couple of days..

  • Jo Willcox

    How better than tonight’s Panorma to illustrate what can happen when “care” is run for profit. If the suited head of the ‘Castlebeck Group’ really cared about people with LD, he never would have allowed a culture to develop that lead to systematic torture and abuse. Stomach churning.

  • Ehtch

    Care homes, as in the US, seem usually to be run on sharp-end hard-arsed business lines, where the bottom line is the most important bit. But there are excellent caring ones, but they tend to be unfranchised ones, where the caring bit is what is concerntrated on mainly, as long as the owner can make a satisfactory income, which is fair and alright, and how it should be without boardroom ghosts running things.

  • MicheleB

    How else should we expect a business man to dress?

    There is absolutely no room for profit in care.  When it’s what it should be it’s expensive enough without a profit addition and if quality has to be limited to allow for profit we know who will suffer.

    I’d imagine that staff/patient ratios need to be at least 1:1 over the week; nurses, 21 shifts per week, cleaners, cooks etc and even if each of those people is paid only minimum wage the staff costs alone are over £2k per week.

  • Ehtch

    My old music teacher from grammar school is in a local care home, where they do a good job at caring. His mind is totally gone with dementia, and to remember him going here, there and everywhere playing the piano in eisteddfods, conducting a choir wherever needed, and so on, it is a sad sight to see him as a shell now. But that is how it happens sometimes, where you just end up just waiting for god to call you, mind gone.

    Caring is underrated as an occupation, which frightens the life out the average person. Many prefer the ostrich route in thinking about it.

  • Ehtch

    I know this is controversial, but there is a case if a person, as with Terry Prachett, states he wants his life to be terminated if his mind decends to a certain useless state, I think there is a case for that.

    But yes, the family gold-diggers can abuse that with, ahem!, bought docs, if you get what I mean.

    So the system has to be robust. But do we know if patients are taking joy in standing in the middle of the room staring at about 30 degrees up towards the celing within what is left of their mind? That is the philisophical big question, even if Terry Prachett says to do me in if I do so – he might be having a good time at that moment. The human brain is funny and peculiar, as we experience in our dreams, many of which we do not like to talk about, and keep strictly to ourselves. Yes, go on, admit to yourself. I won’t tell anyone.

  • Care homes have now turned into a profitable business institution and hence the traditional cares homes are in some trouble with their limited resources. But care should be taken while giving permission to such profitable organization. Both should go through the investigation and must take stunt steps.

  • Treatment houses have now become a lucrative business firm and hence the common cares for you houses are in some trouble with their restricted sources. But care should be taken while supplying choice to such lucrative firm. Both should go through the research and must take stop actions.