Letter: Be fair to private homes for elderly

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The Independent Online
Sir: Polly Toynbee's article "An inspector calls on privatised care" (3 March) includes several interesting and pertinent points, but taken together they are assumed to prove that private homes are of a poor standard and run purely for the financial benefit of the owners. This view is both prejudicial and inaccurate.

The vast majority of private residential homes for the elderly represent high standards of care and good value for money. We entirely agree the need for adequate (and unannounced) inspections. High standards of care can be achieved without uniformity of practice and provision. This is one of the strengths of the private sector.

The local authority is presently responsible for inspecting all private provision. In some areas authorities have recently been forced to close some of their own homes, since these must now be inspected to the same standard and they are unable to bring their homes up to our required level. It is quite unacceptable for inspection units to be as poorly staffed as those which Ms Toynbee quotes.

Any member of the public who faces the difficult decision to place an elderly relative in a home would be ill-advised to use an unregistered home and should seek the guidance of their local Homes Association.

Places in private homes are generally less expensive than those in local authority homes. This is due to the fact the the owners/proprietors are personally involved in the running of the home and there is a saving on bureaucratic management.

The owners are not over-remunerated. Whether we are social workers paid through taxes or proprietors paid directly by our clients, the money has to be found by the public, and we all share the same altruistic motives.

The principle of "Care in the Community" must be applauded, but it is often used an opportunity to save money when the care needed is not available. Choice must indeed be offered, but this is frequently denied to those who wish to be relieved of the responsibility, loneliness and fear of living alone.

Miss L H MEERS

Chairman

Registered Care Homes Association (Hereford & Worcester)

Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

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