Don’t just blame staff - companies must be 'accountable' for care home failings

Minister pledges new rules to ensure firms which fail vulnerable patients are punished

Private companies which get public money to run care homes will be made “corporately accountable” for poor standards, the Care Services minister has pledged.

Norman Lamb said he would address regulatory gaps to ensure there were consequences for firms which failed vulnerable patients in hospitals or care homes. At present, care home staff and managers are more likely to be held accountable for abuse than the companies, executives and investors that actually profit from failing homes.

Mr Lamb, a Liberal Democrat, pledged to end the “national scandal” which allowed people with learning difficulties to be abused at the Winterbourne View home, near Bristol. “We have to address corporate accountability,” he told The Independent.

“There is a gap in the system of regulation… it has tended to focus on an individual care home or hospital without thinking about who is controlling it or profiting from it. I have no difficulty with a private company providing care in homes or hospitals – [but] people have to recognise that if they are providing care for people in highly vulnerable circumstances, they have a responsibility and must be held to account.”

The minister’s pledge comes the week after a series of articles about private care home owners in The Independent which revealed major gaps in regulation – despite ever increasing amounts of public money going to private providers.

Mr Lamb said the Government response to the Winterbourne View scandal, in which vulnerable people were left to be abused and assaulted in an unsuitable private care home, must be “absolutely credible and robust”.

“It is a national scandal spending public money putting people into care settings, which are completely inappropriate and then, all too often, experiencing poor quality care. We would never tolerate someone with cancer being given totally inappropriate care, so why do we tolerate this happening for people with learning difficulties? I’m clear it’s got to end.”

Opposition MPs, unions and voluntary sector organisations are among those pressing the Government to demonstrate it has learnt the lessons of Winterbourne View and the collapse of Southern Cross by introducing tougher regulation.

“Poor care or abuses cannot be tolerated anywhere. Whoever is provider – state, voluntary or private – there have to be consequences when care has fallen down and there is clear culpability for what has happened,” said Mr Lamb.

He added: “Unsustainable financial arrangements can ultimately result in poor quality care so we have to address that as well. New regulation will be introduced; it is not a long way off.”

The elephant in the room is, as always, the expanding funding gap for adult social care, with Mr Lamb – who is clear it must be resolved before the next General Election – apparently at odds with his new boss, Jeremy Hunt, who recently said the Dilnot recommendations to introduce a £30,000 cap for elderly care were unaffordable.

“It’s the highest-profile issue in my in-box. We must do Dilnot. We can have a debate about where to set the level and when to implement it, but we have to set the principle and get on with it,” said Mr Lamb.

Since being promoted in the autumn reshuffle, Mr Lamb has not shied away from controversial issues, notably adding his support for a change to assisted suicide laws and ordering an investigation into allegations about inappropriate end-of-life care.

Mental health issues have affected his extended family, and he admits that this personal experience makes him “impatient for change”. 

Lamb has long spoken out against the “asymmetrical” approach by government to mental and physical health and it is one of his top-three priorities he wants to be judged on at the next General Election. He received a Royal College of Psychiatrists President’s medal while in opposition for his work on equality for mental health. 

He said: “I am pleased Ed Miliband talked about mental health but over the last decade it was excluded from the access entitlement of the 18-weeks target, the tariff system and the very powerful idea introduced by Labour that patients should have choice.

“If there is any area of health where you want to empower people, surely it’s mental health but they get what’s given to them and that has got to change in my view.”

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
The video, titled 'A Message to America', was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans 'in any place'. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video's authenticity
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Insight Manager

£40000 - £43000 Per Annum plus company bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Computer Futures has been est...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape