Thousands of hospitals, care homes and clinics fail quality test says Care Quality Commission


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The Independent Online

Thousands of hospitals, care homes and clinics across England are failing to meet at least one essential safety or quality standard amid serious concerns about future risks to patients as services struggle to cope with less money and rising demands, a comprehensive report reveals today.

The Care Quality Commission found 27 per cent of health and social care providers inspected in the past 12 months were failing to meet minimum standards designed to protect patients from unsafe and poor quality care.

The ageing population and the rising tide of patients who suffer from complex or multiple illnesses mean that some care providers are struggling to provide respectful, dignified, "person centred" care, the CQC warns.

The most common problems include staff shortages, poor medication management and record keeping, failing to ensure patients have enough to eat and drink, and a lack of general respect and dignity - including call-bells out of reach and staff speaking to patients in a condescending manner. The figures are based on evidence from 13,000 inspections.

The worst offenders were homes and hospitals caring for people with learning disabilities – with around 40 per cent failing to safeguard residents from abuse. The scandal at Winterbourne View private hospital triggered a comprehensive inspection programme of these institutions by the CQC.

The private sector, which dominates learning disability care, also performed poorly in mental health and addiction services. But private hospitals and community services outperformed the NHS in some areas such as staffing levels, and 98 per cent were found to treat people with dignity and respect.

Poor nutrition is an area of particular concern with a staggering 15 per cent of NHS hospitals and 20 per cent of nursing homes failing to ensure sick and frail elderly patients have enough to eat and drink.

Age UK’s Director General Michelle Mitchell said the findings were a “serious indictment” of the way older people are cared for in England.

A culture in which poor care becomes the norm, a task-focussed rather than person-centred approach, bad management and inadequate staffing level, underpin many of the failures, the report concludes.

The worst staffing levels were found in nursing homes - 23 per cent of those inspected failing to meet the CQC standard compared to 16 per cent of residential care homes and NHS hospitals. 

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "The basics of good care, such as dignity, compassion and respect, cannot be delivered in a conveyor belt approach which is task orientated or lacking in empathy."

The regulatory challenge facing the government is demonstrated by the ever increasing role played by private companies in delivering NHS services and social care. The biggest rise came in the home care sector which saw 16 per cent rise in ‘domiciliary care agencies’ registered with the CQC in the past year. This coincides with a growing number of people having to pay for their own care as council raise eligibility thresholds to cope with a 28 per cent drop in government funding.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there can be hiding place for sub-standard practice. "Where there are problems we expect the CQC and other regulators to take swift action."